Week 5: Growth in Oxford Leads to Local Churches Finding Permanent Homes

By: Kennedy Pope and Abby Vance

OXFORD, Miss. – According to Pew Research, “the percentage of U.S. adults who say they regularly attend religious services has been declining, while the share of Americans who attend only a few times a year or never has been growing.”

However, with the population of Oxford steadily increasing, there has been a higher demand for more churches to serve the Oxford community.

St. John’s Catholic Church, located right off campus, started construction to expand its building due to an increased attendance.

“We did not have enough seats,” project manager Paul Behrndt said. “There would be times where we would be standing outside on Sunday mornings, so it was obvious we needed to expand.”

St. John’s has grown their sanctuary from seating 300 people to now seating over 600. They also offer a service for college students on Sunday nights.

“Our campus minister said we had about 500 students this past Sunday night,” Behrndt said.

Construction on St. John’s Catholic Church started last fall and is expected to be finished within the next six weeks.

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“Whenever I go to St. John’s I know I have to arrive early to get a seat,” Hannah Suvall, Ole Miss student and church member, said. “A lot of people usually have to end up standing in the back along the aisles.”

Grace Bible, another local church that has seen an increase in numbers, has been in operation for 13 years.

For several years, Grace has been looking to purchase land to build their church, as they have been renting out space on Sunday’s at Oxford Middle School’s auditorium, which is the only auditorium in the district.

“We are still several years away from leaving the middle school,” pastor J.D. Shaw said, “but I would love if in the next year we would close and find a piece of property.”

Shaw also states that he is eager to one day having a place that he and his members can call ‘home.’

The church originally met at Oxford Conference Center but moved to their now ‘office building’ in 2009. They quickly outgrew that space and moved to Oxford Middle School in 2015 but still use that building for office space, Wednesday night church meetings and counseling services for those who are in recovery from addictions.

Grace Bible also has many students that are connected to Ole Miss Cru, an interdenominational Christian organization on campus that meets every Tuesday night.

“We have a lot of students from Ole Miss affiliated with Cru, so that has always been a natural connection with us and students,” J.D. Shaw said.

Lauren Simpson, an Ole Miss graduate student and member of Grace Bible, is hoping that Grace will eventually have their own building one day so that they can better serve the community.

“Because we rent space from the school, we have people setting up and tearing down for services every Sunday,” Lauren said. “So if we had an actual church building, their efforts could be going elsewhere to serve the community.”

Simpson also stated that the office building had a more ‘homey’ feel to it and is eager to hopefully finding that ‘connected’ feeling again.

“We just feel very disconnected in the auditorium,” Simpson said. “We’re so far away from the leaders singing and just feel a huge disconnect.”

In addition to Grace Bible and St. John’s, Pinelake Oxford has also been in the process of making room to accommodate their quickly-growing community.

In 2015, Pinelake Oxford began church services for the first time at the Oxford Conference Center. Over those three years, the attendance has increased from 325 to 1,425 people. They have even added a third service on Sunday’s that is geared towards college students.

Executive Pastor of Communications, Troy Page, states that the primary goal is to better serve the people of Oxford.

“Our intention is to always to have a permanent presence in the Oxford community,” Page said.

Grant Thompson, Pinelake church member, said,I am excited for Pinelake to find its forever home.”

Pinelake Oxford recently purchased 12 acres of land across from FNC Park and is in the beginning stages of construction.

“Right now we are in the master planning process,” Page said. “Once we get that accomplished, we will have a better estimate as to when we can begin.”

“It is long overdue,” Thompson said. “I am looking forward to seeing how God’s going to work through Pinelake with FNC Park.”

More information about Pinelake’s construction updates can be found on their website at the following link: http://www.makingroom.in/oxford/


Week 4: Oxford Square Bars Prepare for New Alcohol Ordinance

By Kennedy Pope and Abby Vance

OXFORD, Miss. – As of Tuesday, September 4, bars and restaurants selling alcohol on the Square have 30 days to start enforcing the new law passed by the Board of Aldermen requiring, among other things, that all IDs be scanned upon entering the bars.

A week after the controversial law was passed by Oxford Board of Aldermen, bar owners and bartenders surrounding the Square voiced their opinions.

“The scanners are pretty much-unchartered territory for me and the rest of the bar owners,” said Lee Harris, owner of Funky’s. “I just don’t think they are going to work simply because you can Google and pay 100 bucks for an ID and it will scan.”

Funky’s bar, located on the corner of the Square, has strictly been a 21 and up bar since its opening in February of 2009.

From a number’s standpoint, Harris stated that students who are underage will attempt to attend 21 and up bars regardless.

“If you look at the numbers, 60 percent of students are under 21,” Harris said.

The Board of Aldermen passed this law regulating “Alcohol and Safety” in hopes to keep underage drinking rates down.

“I see why the city did it, but from a student standpoint, I don’t think it was the most favorable decision on our part. I’m just glad I’m now 21,” said Kelsey Addison, an IMC major at Ole Miss.

Tucker Tims, Ole Miss senior and bartender at Rafters and Annex said, “In my own opinion, I do not think it is going to make much of a difference. The kids have such good fake IDs [that] most of them are going to scan anyways. If it scans and has their name and information on it, then there’s not much you can tell them.”

All bars and restaurants selling alcohol on the Square will be required to have some type of scanner. The scanner suggested by the Board of Aldermen is a $50 down payment with a $10 monthly charge with each device the scanner is on.

“I am against it just because it is more money I have to spend to check IDs,” Harris said. “I also feel like it will make security lazier because now they don’t have to really look they just scan and go.”

Riley Dunworth, an Ole Miss alumnus and bartender at The Library, attended one of the Board of Aldermen meetings and even fought against these changes.

“Because of the crowd that already comes to The Library, I don’t think attendance will change much,” Dunworth said. “I feel like the scanners will be faulty and people with fakes may have more success getting in than previously thought.”

Foreign companies such as “IDGod” offer “premium scannable fakes,” allowing students who may not have been able to have access into such bars could now possibly have access with the new scanners coming into effect.

“I’m waiting until the last minute to start using the scanners,” Harris said. “The second weekend of October is when we have to have it, and that’s when I’m getting it.”

Harris even thinks that this law will be counterintuitive to the intended purpose.

“It’s just gonna make 18-year-olds feel more empowered to go to more of the 21 and up bars,” Harris said.

“I’m not changing how I operate,” Harris said. “Here I am. I’ve been here for 10 years and I’m still pumping it out.”

Because the Board wants to empower Oxford Police to crack down on underage drinking, Harris can see why these actions are taking place; however, he also knows that 18 year-olds are going to find other means of obtaining alcohol.

“We’re just another college town,” Harris said. “If they wanna get in this bar, they’re gonna get in, doesn’t matter what app we have.”

This law will not only affect bars but also restaurants with bars, including Boure. Bartender Reece Smith is also in agreement with the opinions of bars.

“I don’t think it’s going to change much for us,” Smith said.  “We tend to have an older crowd. “It’ll definitely cost more money, but to what extent, I’m not really sure.”

From a restaurant’s standpoint, Boure and surrounding restaurants are still unsure of the precautions they will take to keep their customers happy while enjoying both a drink and a meal.

This law is scheduled to go into effect within the next 30 days to bars solely located on the Square and expand to other businesses outside the “Downtown District” by January 1, 2019.


High Point Coffee Hopes to Offer More Than Just Coffee

High Point Coffee, a longtime local favorite that became Uptown Coffee last fall, opened a new location last week on Old Taylor RoadManager Stephanie Gunderson says that she is very excited about having a new coffee shop in Oxford.

“I just feel like we have a lot to offer college kids,” Gunderson said.

High Point is under the ownership of Amy and Joel Edlin, who partnered with Gunderson to open the new High Point.

Gunderson previously worked in the corporate coffee business for almost 10 years and was eager to have an opportunity to work locally.

“This is my life,” Gunderson said. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do: be part of a community and give back to the community of Oxford.”

Even though they opened less than a week ago, High Point has seen many familiar faces.

“We already have regulars,” Gunderson said. “We know what they want when they come in, and that’s an experience you don’t get at most places.”

Nutrition and Dietetics major Anna Kathryn said that High Point offers a different atmosphere.

“It just feels more calm here,” Anna Kathryn said. “You can come and not worry about having to find a seat at the library and just hang out. That’s what I like about it.”

Worker and junior criminal justice major Jasha McGee is expecting High Point to become a place for college students to come and relax.

“It’s like the coffee shops you see in the movies,” McGee said.

High Point offers study rooms, game rooms, spaces for groups and a deck outside for students, business workers, or anyone wanting to “escape” reality.

“We just want people to come and hang out with us,” Gunderson said.

High Point’s coffee is roasted by owner Joel Edlin at least once a week and offers drinks from espressos to frappucinos to cold brew that is brewed every 72 hours. They also serve bottled beverages, muffins, and snack trays.

Brown Family Dairy, a local family farm, also has drinks named after their cows on the menu since High Point uses their fresh milk.

Since the first incarnation of the original High Point, when they were one of Oxford’s only coffee shops for more than a decade, Oxford has experienced an explosion of coffee offerings including Cups, Starbucks and The Coop, located rooftop of The Graduate hotel.

“We are 100% local, and I think that’s what makes us different from most coffee shops,” Gunderson said.

Recent high-school graduate Eddie Tyson is looking forward to becoming a regular at High Point.

“The people here and the atmosphere is so different,” Tyson said. “You can tell they really care and know how you want your coffee.”

Gunderson hopes to expand the coffee shop and provide room for talent shows, local charity events and other ways to get the community involved.

“It’s not about the money, it’s about the experience and keeping it local,” Gunderson said.

High Point Coffee is located at 3010B Old Taylor Rd. in front of Faulkner Flats and is open Monday-Saturday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.



Influx of New Students Increases Fitness Center Numbers

By: Abby Vance

University, Miss. –– Thousands of students are utilizing the Fitness Center daily to exercise, forcing the Turner Center to make adjustments to accommodate the crowds.

“On the first day of class, we had 3,300 people swiping in [at] the front desk,” said Jaclyn Falzarano, coordinator of marketing for Campus Recreation. This number includes only those utilizing the Fitness Center, basketball courts, or walking/jogging track upstairs –not those attending classes.

This is more than double the number of people using the facilities on a typical day.  The Fitness Center averages 1,500 people going through the stalls on a normal day in the semester.

Last Monday, there were 157 students using the fitness center at 4:30 in the afternoon.

“On a typical Monday in the summer, we had roughly 30-40 people during our ‘peak hours,'” graduate assistant Cheyenne Clouse said. “Now, we are nearly triple that.”

Because of the influx of new students, the staff is trying to accommodate a growing number of students.

“We’ve increased the number of group fitness classes to get people out of the fitness center and into our studios,” Clouse said.

In addition, the staff has urged students to utilize “The Tank” on the first floor of the Turner Center, which is used for more circuit-style training.

Ole Miss student Hannah Ware, as well as many students using the gym, speaks of her frustration with the crowds. Ware has been using the Fitness Center since 2014 and has never seen so many students.

“It was never this busy. It’s a madhouse,” Ware said.

“There’s nowhere to workout or claim your equipment,” Ware said. “I’ve heard it’s not as busy in the early morning, but no college student wants to workout at 6 a.m.”

Even though many students use the gym as a place to “de-stress,” Ware says that the number of students using the Fitness Center counteracts the purpose of actually going.

“It just adds stress to the whole situation,” Ware said.

To alleviate the crowd, employees have also moved equipment around to provide more space for the more common lifting equipment.

“We’re adding versatile options for cable training and bringing in new equipment, and getting rid of the machines that aren’t multi-functional,” Clouse said.

Because of the influx of new students utilizing the Turner Center, many are eager to use the University’s new facility, the South Campus Recreation Center, when it opens.

“We were hoping to have the new center finished by January 2019,” Jaclyn Falzarano said, “but like most things, we’ve had numerous setbacks.”

The new recreation center will be 25,000 square feet, compared to 9,000 square feet in the Fitness Center. On the Campus Recreation Center webpage, there is information about what will be included in the South Campus Recreation Center, from fitness studios to a rock-climbing wall, which is the only indoor facility in north Mississippi providing such.

“Our cardio area should close to triple,” Clouse said.

The staff is also adding a new element to accommodate those who need wheelchair-accessible services.

“We will have a complete section that is ADA compliant,” Clouse said. Currently, there is not a complete ADA-compliant section at the Fitness Center.

Hannah Ware is eager to use the new recreational center in hopes of having more space.
“I’m really excited to use the new recreational center. It’s going to be right by my house so it’s super convenient.”

The South Campus Recreation Center is proposed to be open to students and faculty by Spring Break of 2019.