In an emotionally charged meeting, a small gathering of Avon residents met at the Avon Fire station on the evening of Friday, Sept. 8 hoping to stop any potential sale of the Heritage Church of Avon. The church, located on Harbor Road in Avon, is owned by Bryan Gray Ministries according to Dare County tax records and is currently listed for sale for $1.2 million.
Although Dare County records list the building as dating from 1970, multiple people at the meeting were adamant that the 1970 date actually reflects a modern addition that was added to the original building. The original church building is believed to date from the late 1920s.
In an interview after the meeting, Karen Midgette told the story of how the church came to be built by her grandfather, Alvin Price.
Midgette said that Price was an alcoholic until he found God and was saved. “That’s when he started doing things for the church,” she recounted. “He gave the [Avon] property for the church, and…what happened, the people came together and built the church. Everybody just donated their time and whatever they could donate, and they built the church,” she said.
Although she does not have an exact date when her grandfather donated the property, she is confident it was in the 1920s.
The church was an Assembly of God congregation and remained part of the Assembly of God until about the year 2000, recalled Wayne Hooper, a local resident who spoke at the Sept. 8 meeting. That association with the Assembly of God ended when Bryan Gray became the pastor. Gray grew up in Avon and a number of people there have known him since he was a child.
Some people at the meeting described Gray as embracing Prosperity Gospel as a religious philosophy. Prosperity Gospel believes that, according to the Britannica website, “God wants believers to be richly blessed in this life and that physical well-being and material riches are always God’s will for the faithful. Illness and poverty are seen as curses.”
“The Assemblies of God does not believe in that doctrine…They have position papers against it,” Hooper stated.
With Gray as pastor of the church, a vote of the governing board of the church pulled it out of the Assembly of God fold, voting 18-5 to become an independent church, Hooper told the assembly. His memory of the vote count was confirmed by other audience members.
“That was by the will of the people and that’s the way the bylaws were set up at that time,” Hooper said. “That part was legal. Whether it’s moral or not, that’s a different question.”
Avon residents at the fire station meeting said that over the next 20 years, the congregation shrank significantly, with no services being held since sometime in 2021.
The details of how Bryan Gray Ministries became the owner of the church and property are not certain. But there is a Dare County land transfer document dated Dec. 15, 2021, giving Bryan Gray Ministries ownership of the church. The transfer type is listed as a gift.
There was, among the people who at one time attended the church, a palpable sense of betrayal and grief at the Sept. 8 meeting.
Midgette’s sister, Amy Scarborough, broke down in tears as she recounted the memories of her time in the church. She began talking about the piano as part of the service.
Gray “stopped that,” she said.” He gave it away. The pews in the church he gave away. My grandfather, who helped start the church, had a plaque on the wall. He took that down.”
Scarborough was not the only person to cry when recounting what has happened to the church. After her son Maurice died while serving in the Navy in 2009, Sandy Quidley noted, “This was where I buried my son, in that church.”
At this point, it is unclear what the next steps are the Avon residents will take. A committee was formed at the meeting. One of the possible outcomes of that, based on what was discussed, is the possibility of retaining legal counsel.
Bryan Gray did not respond when contacted for comment on the story.