HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WETM) – The “Journey Church” on Breesport Road says it has no choice but to end concerts and events held at the church by “The L” after 2023, according to the minutes from a November 1st meeting of the Town of Horseheads Planning Board.
“The L” describes itself as a ‘live music venue’ on its website. Concerts and other events including mixed-martial arts, film festivals comedy and fashion shows are held in the same space where the church holds services. The Journey Church said its now only seeking permission to operate a gym on the property. The church says the barber shop has closed and moved to a new location. In a previous Town of Horseheads Planning Board meeting on October 4th, the church said it will keep operating a Cafe, but only during events held by the church.
The minutes from the November 1st meeting reference an email sent on October 30th to Town of Horseheads Attorney John Mustico from Reverend Kevin O’Shell, the interim senior pastor at the Journey Church. The minutes say:
“The email is attached at the end of the minutes, however, due to the myriad of problems caused by The “L” – number one being the noise complaints brought on by the concerts, the most important part of the email reads as follows:
‘Given the situation with the Town, the reduction of our property tax-exempt status, the multitude of noise complaints, the difficulty and expense of mitigating the noise issues and the strain on our people caused by putting on the “L” events, there is no way that we can continue to host The “L” at our facility at the conclusion of the 2023 season’. Given these facts, the effort required to memorialize an agreement with iMatter seemed to me to be better placed elsewhere.’
The email also stated there are (5) five more events scheduled, in 2023, however, only two of the events are concerts; one on November 5th and the last one on November 14th, 2023.
This project will be referred to the Horseheads Town Board and the Board will call for a Public Hearing in the month of December.”
The iMatter Foundation describes itself as a suicide prevention organization. It was founded by the previous senior pastor at Journey Church, Scott Lowmaster. Adam Bunce is described as the “Festival Director.” 18 News reached out to Scott Lowmaster and Adam Bunce Friday to ask about the future of “The L” and “iMatter” in 2024. As of this publication, we have not heard back. The iMatter Foundation, the Journey Church and “The L” all share the same address at 116 Breesport Road.
In a livestream video posted on Facebook on October 23rd, Mr. Bunce said: “There are rumors, rumors, and even more rumors. We hear them floating around the interwebs a lot recently, thanks to a certain local news organization. All scheduled events are happening, regardless of anything you read on the internet, regardless of any news report. Anything that is announced is happening here at “The L.” There is no other location, no other cancellation dates. Nothing is being moved, all happening here in house for the remainder of what’s scheduled in 2023″ Bunce said.
“Click that link, you’ll see everything going on for the next two and a half, three weeks. Those will be the final shows of 2023. That does not mean we are done doing shows forever, it just means we’re done for 2023, as we ramp up for 2024. We’ll have a lot of exciting things to announce in time, we’re just working out the details. I don’t want to announce things prematurely,” Bunce said.
On October 17th, 18 News reported Reverend Kevin O’Shell, the interim senior pastor at the “Journey Church”, told a Town of Horseheads Planning Board meeting the “I Matter Foundation” would “no longer sponsor these types of events” at the Church. Rev. O’Shell said the church was “looking to move iMatter events that are currently booked to an off-site location.” That meeting happened on October 4th.
In the full email presented in the Nov. 1st Planning Board meeting, Rev. O’shell explained the relationship between the Journey Church and iMatter, saying he realizes it is a “rather unorthodox way of operating.”
“I realize this is a rather unorthodox way of operating; however, some background information should help explain, in part, why this approach was taken. iMatter Foundation, Inc., was formed in order to expand our church’s out-reach ministry to aid in suicide prevention. We realized that, as a church, we would have limited opportunities to reach all areas of our community, but a separate, non-religious, 501(c)(3) would not be so restrained. Our congregation supplied a great deal of the volunteers for, and much of Journey Church’s outreach expenditures were used to support, iMatter Foundation activities. With the covid pandemic came significant challenges to our ability to reach out to the community, both from an opportunity and a financial standpoint. It was this that motivated Journey Church to partner with iMatter Foundation in the establishment of the “L”. We provided the venue, the equipment, and many of our congregants volunteered during the events while iMatter Foundation ran them.
Here is a list of the last remaining events that are on the schedule (concerts are in BOLD):
11/05 Alexandra Kay
11/10 Mick Foley Comedy
11/11 Gladius MMA
11/18 Runway For a Cause.
Our recent request to have our PUD amended really now comes down to seeking permission to allow our gym to continue. The LLC has been formed, and we are in the process of drafting the Lease agreement with the gym owner. The details that I believe are of most interest to the Town have been agreed upon by both parties. Namely, the gym will have use of the rooms that are designated as Room 203 and Room 207 on the AJH Design plans for the church extension of “Glad Tidings Journey Center” Drawing No. A-102. I believe the Town already has a copy of these plans, but I will provide an additional copy tomorrow morning. We will not be charging the gym owner any rent for the first year of operation of the gym with the potential of forgoing rent for an additional year. The gym currently operates Monday through Saturday and would like to continue to do so.
Lastly, the barber shop has ceased operating at our facility and has moved to a new location. Thank you again for your patience and kindness.
Kevin H. O’Shell
Interim Senior Pastor
As we reported in September, the “Journey Church” lost part of its tax exemption because of the money it was making from “The L” concert venue. Property records show the Journey Church lost 65% of its tax exempt status. That’s the percentage of revenue it was making from “The L.” The Church owed $33,031 in school taxes for 2023.”
In a planning board meeting on September 6th, Rev. O’Shell said Pastor Lowmaster was no longer associated with the church in any capacity. Rev. O’Shell also told the Town Lowmaster “left quite a mess” for the church to clean up. In a phone call, Lowmaster told 18 News he resigned on August 1st over what he described as “a lot of fighting, a lot of crazy crazy stuff and I’m just tired.”
As we first reported in March, the Town of Horseheads sent a letter to the “Journey Church” saying it should “cease all commercial activities on the premises” until it applies for proper zoning requirements. The letter said the Church did apply to operate commercial businesses on the property. However, the Town said it only approved the use of professional offices and not the quote “myriad of uses requested in its application.” In addition to a concert venue, the Town says the Church was also operating a fitness center, barber shop, wedding venue, and had plans to open a cafe restaurant.