Celebration On The Lake church ceremonially burns mortgage after paying off new facility early


DONE DEAL | Sue Cardin of First State Bank Gun Barrel City watches as Celebration On The Lake church members Pam Jenkins, Bruce Ward and Hildy Jacobs burn the church’s mortgage on their new facility, after paying the loan off early. (Photo courtesy Brenda Allen)


David Webb  |  Contributing Writer

CEDAR CREEK LAKE — Celebration on the Lake Church burned its mortgage Jan. 12 in a celebratory ceremony just six years after constructing the church’s new building.

About 70 members and visitors attended the regular Sunday morning worship service and a potluck dinner in the church’s banquet hall afterwards.

The enthusiastic congregation beamed smiles as the mortgage went up in flames in a metal receptacle.

Pastor Kathy Bowser said the congregation observed a joyous celebration. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the place when we sang, ‘Standing on holy ground,’” she said. “It became very emotional. There was cheering and stomping and people standing on chairs to take pictures.”

Bowser said the congregation that began with 20 members in 2003 and now numbers 82 realized a lofty goal upon moving into the new building in May 2009. They felt the reward again with the early mortgage pay off, she said.

“There was a huge desire on the part of many LGBTQ people to go to church,” Bowser said. “Not all churches would let them, or if they did would not let them take leadership roles or validate them. Many of them were raised in the church, and they had a burning desire to have a place that was inclusive, welcoming and validating.”

The church spent about a quarter-million dollars to raise the new building on property purchased off South Highway 198 in a rural area near the lake.

The church obtained a mortgage from First State Bank in Gun Barrel City to supplement money it raised in a capital campaign while still renting space in a strip mall, also on Highway 198 near the bridge in Payne Springs.

First State Bank branch manager Sue Cardin delivered the mortgage papers to the church and attended the celebration.

“She was the loan officer who took a risk when others would not on a very small group of people who had a vision for a flagship church at the lake,” Bowser said in an email to the congregation announcing the ceremony.

Others attending the ceremony included original guarantors of the mortgage who pledged their savings accounts and homes to help get the church built.

The 12-year-old church conducted three capital campaigns over the years, including the most recent “Double-Up Campaign” that led to $25,000 in contributions from anonymous donors. The sale of a piece of property given to the church several years ago put more money in the bank.

“It was really amazing,” Bowser said of the fundraising, which included benefit shows at the now-closed Friends nightclub and at Garlow’s, both in Gun Barrel City.

At the beginning of 2015 the church owed $111,000 on the mortgage, and the congregation voted to pay it off with the savings.

Bowser said several churches in the Cedar Creek Lake area welcomed the congregation and their new church building. For the past two holiday seasons, the choirs of six other churches joined Celebration on the Lake’s choir in Christmas pageants narrated by retired Channel 8 news anchor Gloria Campos, who is a weekender.

Now, the congregation is setting new goals over a three-year period, Bowser said. They want to increase membership to 150, collaborate with more groups that serve people in need, increase the food bank work by 50 percent, bring about 20 new members under the age of 30 into church membership and establish relationships with more area churches.

Bowser said the congregation is diverse with a “good mixture” of men and women and retired and working people who live in a dozen towns surrounding the lake. Most of the members live in the area, but some come from Athens and Palestine, she said.

There used to be more weekenders in the congregation, but the ongoing drought led to a drop in their numbers, Bowser said. A few of the members are friends of the LGBTQ community, she said.

Bowser said the congregation worried at first about the reaction from the lake community to an LGBTQ church sitting prominently off the highway when the sign went up, but no trouble came to pass.

“Getting involved with the other churches has helped us,” Bowser said. “I think it has helped us a lot.”

Bowser said she expects the church will enjoy “expanding acceptance” in the lake community as the years pass.

Celebration on the Lake Church is at 9120 S. Hwy. 198 at CR 2531. Call 903-451-2302 or email pastor@cotlchurch.org. Services are Sunday at 10 a.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 16, 2015.