State Roundup


Easter worship at ex-church that became nightclub 
PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A southeastern Michigan church building that spent several years as a nightclub reopened on Easter Sunday as a house of worship.
It took $1 million and months of work to transform the former Clutch Cargo’s nightclub in Pontiac into the new home of Greater Grace Fellowship Church. The 30,000-square-foot, four-story church seats about 750.
“There was a wrecking crew in here and we did this in four months ... but we have been dreaming about this and preparing for it for years,” the Rev. Kent W. Clark told The Detroit News.
Christians across the denominational spectrum filled Michigan’s churches on Sunday to observe the holiday that celebrates the story of Jesus’s return from the dead. In Detroit, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, the leader of 1.3 million area Catholics, performed an Easter vigil for hundreds who attended the historic Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
The new home of Greater Grace Fellowship was dedicated in 1962 as home of First Congregational Church of Pontiac. The congregation sold the Gothic-style building in 1997 to investors who renovated it and made it The Sanctum nightclub. It was sold in 1999 and later reopened as Clutch Cargo’s.
“This is a gift from God,” Clark told WWJ-AM. “We firmly believe that.”
Clark said he has big plans for the new church building.
“This place will stay busy every day of the week, not just Sunday mornings,” he said.
Greater Grace Fellowship operates a mission to needy people, but space constraints have limited its capacity in the past, Clark said. He said that last year, it turned away 7,700 people seeking help, something that shouldn’t happen anymore.
“It’s a great victory,” he said.
Linda Atkins was a member of the previous church when declining membership forced the congregation to sell the building.
“That hurt us. We felt really bad,” the woman from Oakland County’s White Lake Township said during a tour of the building three weeks before its reopening.
She said she was pleased to see the transformation.
“It feels like a church again,” said Atkins. “This is a resurrection.”

FBI alleges fraud in priest’s Florida condo purchase 
TROY, Mich. (AP) — Federal authorities are accusing a Detroit-area priest of fraud in the purchase of a condominium in Florida.
The government filed a lawsuit in Detroit federal court Monday to seize the Rev. Edward Belczak’s condo in Wellington. The FBI says the $110,000 down payment came from a bank account belonging to St. Thomas More parish in Troy.
The Associated Press left a message seeking Belczak’s current contact information from the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Belczak was removed from the church last year. He hasn’t been changed with a crime, but the request to take control of property means there’s a criminal investigation.
Belczak purchased the condo for $500,000 in 2005 from a church office manager. The FBI says the priest and office manager jointly held a bank account to make mortgage payments.
Waterford Twp.
Secretary of State Johnson starts  re-election bid 
WATERFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is formally launching her campaign for a second four-year term.
The motorcyclist on Monday announced her bid at a Harley-Davison store in Waterford Township in Oakland County, her home county. She also planned stops in Lansing, Grand Rapids and Holland.
The Republican has no Democratic opponent yet. Michigan Democrats will nominate a candidate at a convention this summer.
The 59-year-old Johnson is a former Oakland County clerk and state lawmaker. She says she wants to continue improving customer service and securing the ballot box.

Sutton’s Bay Twp.
Indian male skull turned over to tribe organization 
SUTTONS BAY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A skull that was apparently passed down through generations of a northern Michigan family has been turned over to an Indian group in a repatriation ceremony.
The family doesn’t want its name known, according to Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich. He told the Traverse City Record-Eagle that the family gave the skull to his office in Sutton’s Bay Township in the northwestern Lower Peninsula.
The skull had been in the family for years, Borkovich said. He said an elderly family member died and younger members didn’t want it.
According to family lore, a family member was a mariner on the Great Lakes, the sheriff said. He said the family member stopped at Beaver Island, where a Native American offered him the skull, according to the story.
“In that era, things were done differently,” Borkovich said. “Apparently, he purchased the skull and it was in the family for years and years.”
Borkovich said his department sent it Michigan State University for tests.
“We did not know if that story was true or not,” Borkovich said. “We did not know it wasn’t a 10-year-old skull, for instance.”
The tests determined that the skull was that of an Indian man who was at least 25 years old and it dated from the 1800s, Borkovich said.
The sheriff said he gave the skull to the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, which performed a repatriation ceremony Friday.


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