The eclectic DeLand congregation that proudly calls itself a “misfit faith community” is now a church chartered by the United Methodist denomination and preparing to move into a new home.
Collective, which started 10 years ago as a casual group that met in Downtown DeLand to discuss life and spirituality, has grown to a membership of more than 220, as DeLand-area residents embraced Collective’s commitment to nonjudgmental inclusivity.
Long supported by DeLand’s First United Methodist Church, Collective is now its own church, with its own shopping center.
On Aug. 30, Collective closed on the purchase of Amelia Plaza, home now to McCabe’s, a popular package-liquor store and lounge, as well as a laundromat, a fitness center, a pharmacy and a convenience store.
The laundromat and the pharmacy will stay, Collective Pastor Ben Collins said. The fitness center is still deciding, and there are three open storefronts available for rent, he said.
Popular neighborhood watering hole McCabe’s will also be staying.
“We’re going to make it so he can stay as long as he wants to,” Collins said.
Collins came to DeLand to study business at Stetson University, before veering into the ministry, completing his graduate studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Orlando, working as an assistant pastor at First United Methodist, and helping found Collective.
His background in business studies is evident, as Collins talks about the opportunities involved in leading a church that’s both landlord and spiritual center.
Another Collective founder, Realtor Turner Swann, found the for-sale shopping center, Collins said, after the church had been looking at properties for about 14 months.
Collins explained that Collective has a commitment to never depend on its congregation for more than 50 percent or 60 percent of its expenses.
“The plaza represents a significant long-term opportunity for revenue,” Collins said.
The benevolence of an Orange City church whose membership was dwindling — and whose members supported Collective’s mission — made the $950,000 real-estate purchase possible.
Once it was separately chartered, Collective needed to move from First United Methodist’s property at 111 S. Alabama Ave., where it has been meeting for several years. Collective meetings will continue there for several months, Collins said, while the shopping plaza is reconfigured.
First United Methodist has other plans for the Alabama Avenue property, Collins said. In the meantime, Collective is figuring out where exactly in the shopping center the church will go.
Over the past decade, Collective has grown from a small group to a welcoming home for those seeking a nontraditional way to discuss and practice religion and spirituality.
“Creating an intentional space for religious and spiritual exploration and expression — that’s also safe — is its particular appeal,” Collins said.
Even with its United Methodist charter, Collins said, the nontraditional, welcoming ways won’t change.
Collective broadcasts its Sunday-evening services online, enabling people to connect even if they prefer to stay home or aren’t physically near DeLand.
Collective also supports and hosts an LGBTQ+ outreach group, Collective Cares, along with a number of other social and support groups.