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Church moves to new location in same city (Feb. 20, 2004)

Church moves to new location in same city (Feb. 20, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church moves to new location in same city

Feb. 20, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0027}

Church sees new home as place to fulfill its mission of making disciples.

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

The Feb. 1 consecration of Ebenezer United Methodist Church's new facilities featured the first-ever performance by Ebenezer's Anointed Praise Dance Ministry and included two baptisms and a new member joining the church. The Revs. Geraldine McClellan and Jeff Stiggins, superintendents of the Gainesville and Orlando districts, respectively, helped the congregation celebrate its new campus and officially open the church for worship and service. Photo by Michael Wacht, Photo #04-0007.

ORLANDO - Arriving at Ebenezer United Methodist Church in June 2003 was bittersweet for the Rev. Margaret Kartwe-Bradley.

She was excited about jump-starting the ministry at the only African-American United Methodist Church in Orlando, but she was disappointed at the church's cramped quarters. Additionally, most of the residents in the neighborhood surrounding the church were already members of other area churches.

"I don't care how bad I thought it was, it was still their church," Kartwe-Bradley said. "I couldn't do anything if they didn't want to."

Then things began to change last fall when church members began talking about adding on to the church and even contacted an architect who submitted a rough figure of $300,000 for the remodeling job. Church members began looking into grants and other ways to fund the project.

"We continued to pray about the church and after charge conference, the district superintendent [Rev. Dr. Jeffery Stiggins] asked me to go to lunch, then he asked me to go for a ride," Kartwe-Bradley said.

It was a ride that would take Ebenezer United Methodist Church into the future.

Stiggins took Kartwe-Bradley to a vacant United Methodist Church in the Holden Heights area of Orlando. The church had been used by a Korean mission that relocated more than five years ago because the property was too large for them and the neighborhood was steadily growing in African-Americans, Haitians and Hispanics, but not Koreans.

The facility includes a sanctuary that holds 350 people, basketball court, choir room, computer room, dining room, numerous bathrooms, nursery, pastor's office, secretary's office, tennis courts, tool room, weight room and area to expand in the future.

After working in connection with the Orlando District Missions Board and Stiggins, the church voted to move into the facility.

The first worship service at the new property was Feb. 1.

"We're excited about it," Kartwe-Bradley said. "We can be a real church and not just be within ourselves. I know we will make a difference there. There are children and families there that need us."

David Elyea, chairman of the Orlando District Missions Board, said Kartwe-Bradley was "on fire" when she talked about the possibilities for the church. He said she relayed incidents about how ministry at the church was being hindered by its lack of space.

"What really impressed me is that when she came before the missions board, she didn't talk about a bigger sanctuary or more space to expand, but how the neighborhood needed them to be there," he said. " 'We need to be there helping them to turn their lives around,' that's what she said. I just think it fits the needs and came about at the right time."

That's exactly how church member Willie Scott feels. He has been a member of the church for 22 years.

He considers the new location an answered prayer. He said the church had been dwindling in size and losing some of its members in recent years and the new location is going to be an excellent way to make disciples and positively impact the community.

"The church is just so small; there was no place for outreach ministries. We had started a few years ago to establish a building fund, but it would have taken us another 10 years of saving," he said. "We were praying about this and praying about this, what we should do? Then along came the building from nowhere. It's a rare thing."

Stiggins said he realized it was a difficult decision for Scott and other church members to decide to move.

"It's a huge move," he said. "It's tough to leave behind a facility with a lot of emotional attachments, but key leaders chose to make this move. They knew they could really be in ministry in a far more profound way now than where they were before."

Scott said, for him, the new location is less about the church physically moving and more about spiritually helping people in the new area.

"We're in a community where we feel needed," Scott said. "People are unchurched. It's going to be all right where we are. We're doing the right thing. At our dedication three people joined the church and two people were baptized. It was the greatest worship experience I've ever had. It's God's blessing. I feel really, really good about where we are."


This article relates to Congregational Transformation and Outreach.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.