On Nov. 7, 2021, Divine Peace, Milwaukee, Wis., held its final worship service after sharing the gospel with its neighborhood for almost 65 years. It was an emotional day filled with memories of weddings and baptisms, confirmations and Christian funerals. Yet there was joy beneath the sadness—joy that only peace in Christ can bring. The members of Divine Peace knew that they are a part of God’s bigger plan for the kingdom.
When Divine Peace was established in 1957, it was built on the outskirts of a growing city, surrounded by farmland. Over the years, farmland gave way to starter homes and apartment buildings. As homeowners began to move to the suburbs and those in the apartments constantly came and went, it became difficult for Divine Peace to build lasting relationships with its transient neighbors and sustain its membership.
As the congregation began to run out of resources, and its pastor took a call to another congregation in June 2021, Divine Peace’s leadership knew it was time to prayerfully evaluate its future. Members also looked at the density of WELS congregations that are now in the area—four churches within a 1.5-mile radius.
After extensive Scripture study and prayer, open forums, and a special sermon series, the congregation determined it no longer could carry out a sustainable ministry. “We believed it was a better use of our time, talents, and treasures to close Divine Peace and redeploy these gifts to other areas of ministry. This redeployment would involve sending our membership to other WELS congregations in our community to support and strengthen those churches,” says Divine Peace church president Brian Gottschalk.
Instead of selling the church and property themselves, congregation leadership turned to WELS Foundation for assistance. After the final service, Divine Peace donated the property to WELS Foundation, who in turn sold the property and distributed the net proceeds to the ministries designated by the voters of Divine Peace. They split the assets of the sale to continue supporting gospel work for years to come: 80 percent to support WELS Missions and Congregational Services and 20 percent to support Christian education at nearby Wisconsin Lutheran High School through its foundation’s endowment.
Jim Holm, Executive Director of WELS Foundation, says, “It was a privilege to work closely with Mr. Gottschalk, church secretary Shelly Fink, and leadership at Divine Peace throughout this process. Even though Divine Peace closed its doors, its legacy of faith will continue.”
Holm continues, “WELS Foundation was blessed to assist Divine Peace as part of our mission of facilitating gifts to benefit WELS ministries, for the spreading of the gospel.”
To contact WELS Foundation, please call 800-752-8940 or e-mail [email protected].