Amid shouts of hallelujah, amen, tears, and smiles the Marco Community Church, 590 West Elkcam Circle, voted unanimously Sunday to merge with New Life Community Church.
The vote was also unanimous to accept Thomas McCulley as pastor. The two congregations had worshipped together since Christmas Eve. Due to declining membership, Marco Community Church could no longer afford a pastor and was closed the week prior to Christmas. New Life was a congregation without a building.
Bishop E.L. Cushman, South Florida evangelism director for the Church of God, gave a message from the Bible and moderated the vote.
“We are witnessing a miracle today this wouldn’t have happened 20, 15, or five years ago,” said Cushman in his message to the combined congregations. “He [God] sent the McCulley’s here 20 years ago. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous,” continued the bishop.
McCulley and his wife Daryl founded New Life on the island in 1986. The Church of God is the oldest church on the island was founded in 1935. McCulley is currently the longest serving clergyman in the community and has served several terms as the president of the Marco Island Clergy Association. He had been personal friends with all of the previous Church of God pastors.
After the votes the congregation prayed together and the bishop anointed the McCulley’s with oil.
“Let the people say that this will be a place where all people can come to worship. The church is a little noisy because we are excited about knowing God,” said McCulley.
All were silent, however, when McCulley read a document from SDS Accounting Solutions dated Feb. 7, “We have reviewed the bank statements, (Bank America) account, from 1/1/08 through 12/31/08 for Marco Community Church of God, Cemetery in Marco Island, Florida. In reviewing the records, no improprieties have come to our attention. We have also reviewed the bank statements (Fifth Third account) from 1/1/08 through 12/31/08 for Marco Community Church of God, Marco Island, Florida, in addition to reviewing the QuickBooks accounting records from 12/19/2005 through 12/31/08. In reviewing the records no improprieties have come to our attention.”
The news was met with joy.
McCulley next called up the church officers for anointing. They are Les Bowen, Dave Gallus, Mike Harris, Bill Hicks, Marcel LaFrancois, and Bill Straubhaar. Kerry Rowles will serve as treasurer. Les Bowen, Richard Heinrich, and Cliff MacMorris were appointed as trustees.
Pastor emeritus, of Marco Church of God, the Rev. Tandy Roach was also on hand. He served as the interim pastor.
“He came during the time of transition and had no interest in becoming the senior pastor, yet was fully engaged in his heart. He’s been one of my mentors,” said McCulley about Roach.
Roach said, “Thomas and I tried to merge this church years ago but it wasn’t in His planning.”
At the conclusion of the service, the 133 attendees moved to the dining area for a fried chicken lunch with all the fixings. Bill Hicks, of Church of God, and Ruthie Snyder of New Life Community shared their thoughts on the merger.
“I’ve been a member for about seven years and seen a lot of changes. Today’s change is the best change I’ve seen to date. It’s very positive for the folks of this church. God has led us down this path and we have arrived,” said Hicks who will serve on the new church board. Snyder added, “Thomas McCulley came to the island after all the church land was given away. We tried to find land and it wasn’t available on Marco. God has brought these two churches together. Now we have a permanent palace for our ministry. I think that’s the miracle.”