The Rev. William Bogholz, interim pastor at Christ, Cape Coral writes….
Christ Lutheran, Cape Coral is a unique ministry and congregation. When I was called in the Spring of 2014, the congregation was in Bankruptcy Court struggling under the burden of a $3.4 million debt. When asked why I would consider coming to Christ, even as an interim, I had two answers. First, quite simply the Bishop asked me to consider it and my ministry over most of my ordained ministry has been with troubled and struggling congregations. Second, despite the debt, Christ showed signs of being a healthy congregation.
One of those key signs was this congregation still regularly gave their mission support to the wider church. Each and every month 6% of their income was being shared with the synod. Even when they could not pay their bills and some staff pay had to be deferred until they saw how much came in the Sunday plate, mission support was still shared.
Inquiring why, we faithfully gave, there were usually two responses. First, it is something we’ve done since our mission development days. Second, there have been faithful lay and ordained leaders, who regularly advocated for mission support.
There were a few years when the congregation stopped giving. At the height of the crisis when they were spending away their endowment funds they stopped giving. As one Council member put it. We stopped giving Mission Support for a while. It didn’t help, we still could not get out of debt. We went back to giving because that’s who we are.
This year, the Finance Team is recommending a budget that includes an increase in our Mission Support. Does that mean everything is good. No, we are still definite a unique ministry and congregation. In 2015, we gave our property back to the bank, seven acres, seven buildings, in exchange for the debt. We left the old campus and moved in with an Episcopal congregation. We are working on our remaining debts, by the fall of 2017 we should be debt free.
More importantly we are a revitalized congregation. With the burden of the debt lifted, we are looking beyond ourselves. Since our move, we have begun or resurrected at least 10 ministries. We have connected with our neighborhood, adopting our local fire station and supporting a home for teen mothers and their children, thanks to our WELCA circles. We’ve resumed Bible Studies and Men-in-Mission. We’ve begun a Teddy Bear ministry, sharing bears of comfort, in the first year over 130 bears have been shared and at least five congregations have begun similar ministries because someone received one of our bears. Many members keep homeless care packages in their cars to share with those they see on the street. We’ve begun a series on Our Neighbors Faith, inviting community religious leaders to share their faith tradition and inviting their members to learn with us. Our Widows and Widowers Fellowship has reformed now with a service component. Our God’s Work, Our Hands project brought thank you, care baskets to the local fire station, police headquarters, and our 911 call center.
Amid these various ministries, remains our commitment to Mission Support. Mission Support is not money sent away to the synod and wider church. It is one of our ministries that move us beyond ourselves.
The Rev’d. Dr. William E. Bogholtz
Christ Lutheran, Cape Coral