LGBT church on Cedar Creek Lake takes a ‘build it and they will come’ approach to new building
CEDAR CREEK LAKE — When Celebration on the Lake Church members realized last year that rising construction costs had put their planned new building far beyond the reach of the $130,000 they had raised in a pledge and fundraising campaign drive, some feared they would never see it built.
That’s when Pastor Kathy Bowser reassured the congregation that the church would become a reality.
"The good news is that you have the money to build the church," Bowser said of the five-year plan to build the new church. "The bad news is that it is still in your pockets."
Church leaders and members decided to proceed with their plans, adopting a "build it and they will come philosophy."
The church had only about 50 members at the time, and the new sanctuary was expected to seat about 150. After arranging for a bank loan to finance the new building and equipment — estimated to have cost about $250,000 — construction began late last year.
Ground was broken on land the church had purchased five years ago, which brought the total cost of the project to an estimated $300,000.
A year after concerns about the cost of the project were raised, the congregation celebrated its first services in the new 4,800-square-foot building on Sunday, May 31. Congregation volunteers had spent the previous Friday and Saturday relocating the church from its home in a strip shopping center where it was born six years ago.
Eighty-five people attended the first services — the largest number ever seen in the congregation — seemingly justifying the "build it and they will come" philosophy. Attendance in the strip shopping center location averaged about 30, with surges at Easter and other holidays.
"That’s the largest number we’ve ever had," Bowser said after the services. "We’re very grateful."
She attributed the dramatic increase to "friends and family" showing up in support of the congregation.
The visitors also included new gay Kemp City Councilman Jerry Hazelip, who attended the church for the first time.
"I will be back," said Hazelip, who was raised as a Baptist. "I’ve been looking for a church home."
Standing on the sanctuary stage under a stained glass window that features the church’s logo — a boat on a lake in rainbow colors — Bowser told the congregation during the services to remember why the church had come to be.
"It was the spirit of God that moved us to do this," she said. "It was not of our making."
Pastor Bowser said that although the members of the church could rightfully be proud of the church and enjoy its splendor, there would be much work still left on the horizon.
"The building is ready, but we’re not finished," she said. "It won’t be finished until it is filled up and overflowing. We are still working."
Members of the congregation described the choir’s performance under music director Roger Grandchampt, who formerly directed choir at Cathedral of Hope in Dallas before his relocation here, as "superb" and "marvelous." The church’s new sound system enhanced the performance of the soloist and the choir, and many in the congregation were moved to tears.
The services ended with a ceremony, prior to communion: Members who had worn rainbow-colored bands on their wrists for the last year as a symbol of the project threw them into the air at Bowser’s urging: "We said, ‘Let it rise,’ and this is like graduation. It has risen. Take them off."
At the start of the services, the congregation honored church member Gail DeCuire, who served as the volunteer general contractor while working at her full-time job simultaneously. Bowser announced the large meeting room, where punch and cookies were served afterwards, would be named The DeCuire Community Center, and DeCuire was presented with a gold-colored hammer and measuring square in appreciation for her work.
After the inaugural services, Bowser said the accomplishment would not have been possible without the generosity of Friends nightclub and its fundraisers and the willingness of the church’s 35 members to contribute.
Judy Huemmer, a founding member of the church, noted that the cost of the project would likely have been much higher had it not been for the good terms negotiated by the church with contractors and suppliers and all of the work done by church volunteers.
"Didn’t we get a lot for our money?" Huemmer said. "We’ve been blessed."
Congregation on the Lake Church is located on Highway 198, 6.5 miles south of the intersection of with Highway 334 in Gun Barrel City, outside of Payne Springs on the road to Malakoff. Services are at 10 a.m. every Sunday.