“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.”
Margaret Mead’s words can be used to describe what the congregation of St. Matthias’ Episcopal Church accomplished through hard work, dedication and collaboration – paying off their construction loan for the church in five years.
“Expanding the church building was a challenging task. It took a village, the entire St. Matthias community to make this happen. Because of the congregation’s generosity regarding treasures, time and talent, we have seen wonderful results,” Barbara Kane, senior warden of St. Matthias, stated in a recent church report.
With the idea of “drawing the circle wider,” the congregation decided to expand its church.
“It really has been an amazing experience to think that we started this project really nine years ago, when we first began thinking about expanding and building,” Father Edgar Wallace said. “To see the building done, and now to have the debt paid off, it’s just amazing.”
Nine years ago the thought of expanding the church was in its earliest stages. Two years later when a bed and breakfast, located where the church stands today, was donated to St. Matthias, the expansion project became more of a reality.
“A generous gift of property led us to ‘let our dreams be larger,’ making new building plans and launching a capital campaign,” Fr. Wallace said at the July 1 celebration.
Since then, congregation members offered their treasure, time and talent for the common goal of completing the church and whittling down the loan.
“There’s a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of dedication in the church,” Chris Clark, the former senior warden of St. Matthias, said.
Kane described one way that the congregation donated time and talents to the church.
“We have a lot of people with different talents that saved us money with our overall operations because they would do things for free that normally they would charge for,” Kane said.
All of the yard and garden maintenance, many church repairs, presentations and entertainment are done by church members voluntarily.
“This whole expansion is not the result of a few individuals. It is because of our entire congregation sharing time, treasures and talent,” Kane said. “At our church, we’re always coming together.”
Roger Ganschow, former senior warden of St. Matthias, described one aspect of the congregation that made this feat possible.
“I think what makes this church what it is, is that things happen from the bottom up, not top down. People come with ideas, and we let them run with it. It makes for a very comfortable, spiritual community,” Ganschow said.
St. Matthias is a church that wants to serve its community, Ken Ozinga, member of the St. Matthias vestry, said.
“It’s not my place to say how God plans and works things out, but I think it’s evidence of the fact that a little faithfulness and hard work with good thought and careful consideration, doing our best in the process, has made it work out wonderfully,” Ozinga said. “In the church, we want to serve the community – that’s why we’re here.”
St. Matthias’ Thrift Shop
At the same time the church was being built, a new thrift shop was also constructed with a separate loan. No funds made from the thrift shop went toward paying off the church’s construction loan.
“The thrift shop down the street has been a tremendous success. To see it finished and filled with people, and now to know there’s no continuing debt, it’s hard to express how amazing and satisfying that is,” Ozinga said.
The St. Matthias’ Thrift Shop paid off its loan from money raised at the thrift shop, in addition to extending its profits to the Lakeland community.
“All of the thrift shop money goes to outreach in this community, and that amount will be growing in the next few years,” Ganschow said.
St. Matthias has a board for the thrift shop that accepts requests for donations in the community. Customers, volunteers or the charity itself can make donation requests.
“We go through the requests and then contribute to local causes. It’s all local,” Clark said.
Celebrating the accomplishment
In celebration for the retirement of debt, St. Matthias held a construction loan burning and ice cream social Sunday, July 1.
“Oh, this was very emotional. And there are just wonderful memories of how this all came together from the beginning seven years ago with the donation of the bed and breakfast building right here, which planted the seed for the project,” Ganschow said.
Members of the congregation are very pleased with how everything turned out.
“It’s sort of hard to put it into words at times. We just took it a step at a time, moving the pieces around the board, and people continued to respond to the point where it looked like it was going to work,” Ozinga said.
With the construction loan paid off, the congregation can turn its attention to new projects in the community.
“An energy came out of this project during the building which has carried over to new challenges, new leadership and growth. So it was a great experience in terms of building a community as well as building a church,” Ganschow said.
Sarah Hirsch may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org