This is a story about how a small church in the Dallas area made the decision to end their ministry, sell their property, and pay it forward to Lutheran Social Services, the Nelson Children’s Center, and nine other worthy recipients. This is a “Silver Lining” story if there ever was one.
St. Paul Lutheran Church in Farmer’s Branch has been rooted for 53 years off a busy suburban thoroughfare in north Dallas. The ’50s through the ’80s were decades of growth for the church and its flock. Like many congregations that had their beginnings in this era, St. Paul experienced a decline as surburban sprawl moved traditionalists farther out and away. Neighborhoods changed and charter members scattered. A hearty band of 25 or so worshipers remained at St. Paul, but along with Pastor Debra Loudin McCann, were unable to envision any way to move the church forward.
Then – call it serendipity or divine intervention – the Farmer’s Branch Fire Department came to the rescue! A little more than a year ago, Pastor McCann was at a luncheon when the chief of the Fire Department lamented that they were looking for land for a new central fire station. Land like that on which St. Paul presently stood. Pr. McCann and the people of St. Paul agreed to sell the entire property, voting that the $ Million+ proceeds would be used for mission work, some in the local community.
Lutheran Social Services and the Nelson Children’s Center, a therapeutic living environment for the healing and care of child victims of abuse and neglect, are grateful beneficiaries of two $25,000 checks bestowed by St. Paul Lutheran. Because of such generosity, children in residential treatment and in LSS foster care will be better served.
The last service at St. Paul was held on May 30, and attended by more than 200, as many past congregants and pastors gathered to celebrate the church and its history. The property closing occurred in July, ahead of schedule. It was good news to learn that the sanctuary building will not be torn down, but leased to a public charter school, Park Branch Academy, where 100 fine arts students (grades 6-8) will attend.
To quote Bishop Kevin Kanouse in his NTNLifeLines newsletter, “The ministry of the people of St. Paul Lutheran Church will continue to live for generations because God has been faithful in using and sending them, because they have been faithful to the end, and because in their final act, they have a continuing vision of mission in Jesus’ name.”
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17