On December 11, 2016 we celebrated an amazing milestone for our small congregation up in Northern New York. After nearly two and half years of working together to proclaim Jesus and the free forgiveness of sins in Watertown, our congregation finally moved into our own ministry center. That’s the happy ending (or maybe better put “happy interlude”…since our work isn’t done), but in order to understand how joy filled we were, you also have to know the story of how we got there.
When I first arrived in Watertown the core group that would become Redemption had already been gathering for bi-monthly worship services in a Ramada Inn conference room. Walking into that room was like stepping back to 1992: floral carpeting with a black background covered the floor and dimly lit mirrored wall sconces surrounded the room. Consider also that in those days it was an exciting Sunday if worship attendance was in the low double digits. Sunday worship would be a tough invite both for our members and our friends. I knew we had to move out and quickly.
We began researching several options for a ministry center, and we began looking for a suitable facility to purchase in November 2014. By the end of November we narrowed the field down to the building we wanted to purchase: a bar turned furniture store which was preparing to close. With the help of the Board for Home Missions and The Church Extension Fund we thought within a few months we would be owners of a building.
But first, we had to come up with a down-payment of $50,000. I swallowed hard, “How are we going to get money like that?” God answered that question through congregations in our District who in a Spirit-driven gesture of love, fellowship, and mission mindedness raised the funds for us. Now we could get the loan processed, papers signed, and the sale closed. But what we thought would take a few months turned into a year of working with CEF and the building owners. The final months were nerve-wracking. After the owners nearly walked away and some last second maneuvering we were able to close on the building around Christmas 2015. What an amazing Christmas present from God!
Finally we could get the building renovated so we could start using the building for ministry. Over the past year we had been working with an architect and a contractor to get our renovation plans ready. We were all ready to get the renovations under way. Then we found out through CEF that the New York State Attorney General requires his office to approve all non-mortgage loans for not for profits. We were connected with a law firm which specialized in non-profit law, and they told us that the approval should come through in four weeks. Four weeks turned into eight. Eight turned into sixteen. Finally, nearly six months later in July 2016, in the height of construction season, we received approval from the Attorney General. Renovations would move forward later in September.
By the beginning of December 2016 renovations were completed, just in time for Christmas. The process was long. It took patience that only our God can give. It took trust that can only flow from the Father who graciously gives all things. We even got to celebrate Christmas in our new facility, and all glory to God we had about 60 people in attendance. That too is a story of God given patience and grace, but that one is for another time.
By Rev. Aaron Goetzinger
Redemption Lutheran Church, Watertown, N.Y.
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