SUGAR LAND, Texas – The Redeemed Christian Church Of God Royal Priesthood Parish has been feeding hundreds of families in need through the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is our passion, the heart for the church," said Pastor James Ekanem
The Houston Food Bank named Ekanem’s parish a Disaster Relief Center during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. Since then, people in cars have lined up outside the church to collect food they desperately need.
The lines have caused traffic in and around the shopping center where the parish is located.
Last week Ekanem said the church got a letter from the shopping center’s property manager stating they were only allowed to operate as a church and were not allowed to use the property for any activity which is a nuisance.
"We have not been a nuisance because we are helping the public," said Ekanem.
The letter said the large scale food distribution was causing disruptions for other tenants and went on to say they had until June 5 to find a new location for their food distribution or they would be in default of their lease.
Read the full letter:
“This is our church, this is a part of our church activities so when you say distribution its basically telling us to leave,” said Ekanem.
KPRC 2 reached out to the property manager about this issue and obtained a statement from the landlord of the shopping center, DLS Family Ventures.
"We understand and appreciate the impact this most unusual pandemic has had on our community.
RCCG Royal Priesthood has leased space at The Ashford Lakes Shopping Center. Their lease specifies the use of the rented space as a “Church” and specifies hours of operation. RCCG Royal Priesthood is using the leased premises for purposes other than what is stated in their lease. There are other tenants at Ashford Lakes Shopping Center that have the reasonable expectation to be able to conduct their businesses, free from disruption or impairment by another tenant’s unauthorized use of their space.
We are a small family owned business, not a big, heartless real estate development company and we have tried to work with RCCG Royal Priesthood during these most difficult times. While we understand they are trying to do a good deed for the community, we will have to hold them to the terms stated in their current lease.
Perhaps there is another property owner in the Sugar Land area that would be willing and better suited to accommodate the increased traffic flow caused by the operation of a food bank?"
Pastor Ekanem said their lease isn’t up until January 2021 and said the parish needs more time.
He is asking the landlord to give them four months to close on a new property and said they would gladly leave to continue their faith-based mission.