Mosaic church pastor Tim Reid said his church will leave its Market Street building before Jan. 31, reacting to pressure from city officials following Christmas Eve shootings outside the property that left nine people wounded.
Witnesses, including a Chattanooga Times Free Press employee, spotted church members moving chairs, tables and other equipment out of the ministry at 412 Market St. on Saturday morning.
"We can confirm that by the end of January we will no longer be at that location," Reid said in a phone interview Saturday.
Reid said he would consider other buildings, but an email hints he may drop his youth outreach program altogether.
Five juveniles and four adults were shot following a Christmas Eve party hosted by Club Fathom, Mosaic's urban youth outreach program. No arrests have been made.
Saturday's activity outside the ministry came eight days after Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth issued a temporary restraining order against Mosaic that limited its occupancy to 100 people.
It's unclear whether Reid was evicted or voluntarily decided to leave the building.
His attorney, Steve Duggins, said church officials "are in discussions of what is best in the long-range interest of the ministry."
"I can say there is no eviction," Duggins said. "The church remains a tenant at this time."
But Reid said "I know there's a piece of paper," referring to an eviction notice from his landlords.
"I don't know who signed it," he said.
A few minutes later, Reid denied the existence of an eviction notice.
"I'm just taking it upon myself ... we're looking to get out of there at the end of the month because we can't worship under these guidelines," he said.
Jim Henry, an attorney and husband of the building's owner, Beverly Henry, declined to comment at his Broad Street law office Saturday afternoon.
Ben Henry, the son of Jim and Beverly Henry and a Realtor whose phone numbers are on several "for lease" signs on the building, said he "can't confirm or deny" an eviction notice for Mosaic.
Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield, said anything happening at Mosaic on Saturday - eviction-related or otherwise - was not "city-affiliated."
In the days following the Christmas Eve shootings, city officials declared Mosaic and Club Fathom a nuisance, citing fights, shootings and a rape near the property over the past several years.
Pointing out a shortage of toilets and exits, inspectors set a maximum occupancy of 100 people who must stay within 100 feet of the front door.
Reid said he couldn't see himself complying with the city's requirements, adding that he was tired of dealing with law enforcement.
In a Times Free Press column published Saturday, Reid said authorities only "swarm our facility when we have a good number of black-skinned, young people inside."
"They didn't give us a definition of what a gangster looks like or what urban youth looks like, but we're trying to guess as best as possible," he said in the phone interview Saturday.
He canceled a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday service because he said he would get arrested for hosting teenagers who "fit that description," he said.
Two validated gang members were among the Christmas Eve wounded, according to police.
Reid said he and other church officials are deciding whether to continue Sunday and Wednesday services until Jan. 31. He said he would continue to work with Chattanooga's "at-risk youth," adding that "we're still in prayer" about a new location.
Reid spoke differently in an email he sent to a Times Free Press reporter on Dec. 30.
"Every missionary takes a sabbatical at times after he/she has been overseas for many years," Reid wrote. "2012 is mine. No, I'm not quitting pastoring Mosaic, but I am taking a break from our missions program known as Fathom that reaches at-risk youth and the nightclub community."
Staff writer Cliff Hightower contributed to this story.