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For most of us, the daily grind is an inescapable part of life. For Pastor Andrew Wyns, it was an unholy affront.

For five years his congregation at the Newmarket Community Church prayed that the city's only strip club, Lookers, would pack up and move. They laid hands on the $2-million building, urged God to cleanse it, and dreamed of one day seeing the bump-and-grind emporium converted into a place of worship.

None imagined that their prayers would be answered -- by their own church.

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In a series of events that Mr. Wyns can only characterize as "the hand of God," the church took ownership of Lookers on Hallowe'en.

"They didn't know it, but when they built this place, they built it for us," Mr. Wyns said of the 10,000-square-foot brick building in an industrial area.

"Our feelings as a church is that this is a filthy business. We had time to come and pray over this building and asked God to clean this house and all of the things that went on in the house."

Almost nothing from Lookers is staying. The beer fridge is all but sold; the vending machine, once stocked with Q-tips and Scope, is gone, the strippers' changing room is halfway transformed into a nursery, and three new Sunday-school classrooms will take the place of the former VIP lounge.

Mr. Wyns will conduct the evangelical service from a new stage, built with wood from the old one. "We wanted to take it down," he explained. "We didn't want even the thoughts of the stage. It was a real fancy-doodle stage; there were poles."

But Mr. Wyns has no intention of throwing away the massive disco ball that once glittered over club patrons and performers: He intends to put it back in its rightful place to shine as a victory trophy over a new set of observers.

The first service is planned for the early January, once all the renovations are complete.

The Newmarket Community Church had outgrown its previous location just a few blocks away from Lookers and had been searching for a replacement. It had little luck until Mr. Wyns got wind that the strip joint was on an exclusive listing for sale.

Initially the club's asking price was $450,000 more than what the church was prepared to pay. Mr. Wyns also imposed two conditions on the offer for the building: It was contingent on the sale of his building, and his congregation had to approve the new location.

Eventually, both sales reached their final stages and Mr. Wyns showed the building to his congregation.

He was confident the congregation he assembled 18 years ago could not overlook the benefits of having a fully equipped kitchen, sound system or showers -- even though the latter were originally see-through.

"When you have a place like this you have lots of problems," he said. "The walls had holes and vomit on them, and it smelt like urine. Once [the congregation]saw this place, they looked at what they could do with it." Newmarket's only strip joint was closed in October and the church moved in after cleansing the building with prayer and a lot of detergent.

"My belief is that we have done something good for the community by taking over this place," said Pastor Wyns.

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However, he has found out that not all of Newmarket's citizens share his perspective -- he still sees the odd straggler sauntering into the building looking for more earthly entertainment options.

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