Fla. church to build for others rather than itself
New plan calls for a park to serve the communityBy Tim Huber Mennonite World Review
Cape Christian Fellowship was going to build a new auditorium. Membership at the Cape Coral, Fla., church has doubled over the last five years. On an average weekend, 1,400 people participate in four services; 3,000 were anticipated for Easter, the congregation’s 25th anniversary.
The third phase of Cape Christian’s master plan — estimated to cost at least $15 million — was going to feature a new facility on the church’s 14-acre campus that would seat 1,700.
Then, the southwest Florida congregation — a member of Southeast Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA — decided to go in a different direction and build a park.
“Given the growth of our congregation, consultants recommend we build a high-tech, multi-million-dollar worship center,” said executive pastor Brett Furlong. “However, by building a park for the community, we are demonstrating that the needs outside the walls of our church are just as important as the needs inside. We are a church that exists for our city.”
Founding pastor Dennis Gingerich agreed, noting the attractiveness of a project that would get used every day.
“The most expensive kind of building you can do is a worship center, and it’s the type of building you use least,” Gingerich said.
Construction of a courtyard plaza and fountain for Fellowship Park began March 26. When each phase of the roughly $1 million project is done, the 100,000- square-foot park will include the city’s first amphitheater, a splash park, multiple shaded playgrounds, sports fields, restrooms, an 80-foot zip line, jogging trail and a covered pavilion with a cafe.
“The critical piece we’ve been focusing on the past year is that we gather here, but that is just a place, the church is out in the community,” Gingerich said. “There was a sense — what if we made this a place where people gathered on the inside and the outside through the week?
“It kind of developed out of that — that it be a destination not just to worship but also a place for kids to play and people to exercise and people to enjoy the outdoors.”
From 1989 to 1999, the church pieced together 48 properties on three city blocks. There was one house — the original church office — and the other 47 were vacant. In 1993, Fellowship Park’s ancestor was born when the church built a basketball court.
Comment on the article Fla. church to build for others rather than itself
Please keep comments civil. MWR editors reserve the right to remove any comment. When posting a comment, you agree to the MWR Comments Policy. Name and comment will be posted; commenters are strongly encouraged to give their full name. Email address is for follow-up only and will not be made public.