I remember the words of Psalm 78 which admonish us to remember the blessings of our past: Psalm 78: 2 I will give instruction and explain the mystery of what happened long ago. 3 These are things we learned from our ancestors, 4 and we will tell them to the next generation. We won't keep secret the glorious deeds and the mighty miracles of the LORD.
Times like this call us to remember those who sacrificed so that we could enjoy the blessings they sacrificed to supply to us. This congregation, Castle Hills Christian Church, had its beginnings in 1961 when Fred and Chris Eppinger opened their home to a Bible study group made up mostly of members of the Woodlawn Christian Church. This small group wanted to start a new church on the north side of town, and they found a 6 acre tract of land on West Ave. outside of town which was being used as pasture land. It had a small 4 room farm house with a tack room attached to it. Twenty three people agreed to purchase the land and collected $7,000 for a down payment and took on a mortgage of $14,000 to purchase the land. They converted the tack room to serve as a sanctuary, remodeled the farm house, and added 4 new rooms to serve as class rooms. The new church congregation called Harry Owens to be their founding minister.
The church grew rapidly, and 4 years later they made plans to build a 300 seat sanctuary even though their attendance at the time averaged about 100 people. Talk about vision! They had the foresight to plan for a congregation three times the size as they were at that point. The new sanctuary was going to cost $125,000 to build (half a million in today’s dollars), but they sold church bonds to provide the funding and by 7 years later they had filled that building and made plans to build two other buildings to support it.
In 1971,the office and gym building were both built at the same time for $96,000, again using a church bond program to provide the funds. And with each building program, the church grew and filled up the new space.
Harry Owens retired in 1984, and the congregation called me to come in January of ’85. Almost immediately, we began to run out of space again. We added two huts for class rooms the summer of ’85, and built a two story addition in ’89, at a cost of over $170,000, built entirely by donations as they came in over a three year period.
The new worship center was by far, our boldest endeavor involving the generosity of our members who begin a process of giving in ’98 and paid off the $1.1 million in its entirety last year.
I’ve said all that in order to point out that through our 48 years as a congregation, our people have gladly sacrificed to provide what we now enjoy as a congregation. Through these years our people have raised more than $1,5 million + interest, in order to provide us with a campus worth more than $4 million today. The amazing thing is that not one of the original 23 charter members who started this church, nor their children or grandchildren are here in the congregation at this point in time. This means that none of those pioneers did what they did for themselves or for their heirs. They sacrificed for us. They gave their time, energy and money for us (people they would never see face to face).
Along with the debt of gratitude we owe to our loving God and Savior, we also owe our thanks to the literally thousands of brothers and sisters who have come through this congregation in what ever time they were among us. Some were here for only a few months, others for decades, but they all made a difference in the time they were here. They all contributed to what we are today and what we enjoy today as a 48 year old congregation. I thank them for every hour they donated to work here, every dollar they gave here, every class they taught here, every song they sang here, every prayer they prayed for this congregation here. I thank people others in the congregation don’t remember like Norah Lebohm, Olyvia Sawicki, Art Smith, Emery Jackson, Harry and Annelle Owens, Bob Leatherwood, Gwen Petcavage, Carl Stenger. And I thank people the congregation does remember like Tony Hero, George Farwell, Phil and Cindy Adams, Harrison and Denise Hassle, Cory and Lindsay Roach, and others like them who have come through here, made their contribution and then moved on.
And in the end, isn’t that what we all will do? We are all temporary here. Some may enjoy 40 or more years of faithful, though temporary service with this congregation, others will spend far less time here, but the real issue is not the length of time here, but the quality of time spent here. Just a thought.