Although there was a smell of new wood and paint in the air, it was as if nothing had changed. The cross, baptistery and the pulpit positioned at the front of the sanctuary were the same, just as the faithful who gathered to worship. No fanfare, just joy in the Lord and His Word.
July 1 was the first day the folks at Capri Christian Church (CCC) could worship in their new sanctuary. The event was two years in the making, and for many it was a surprise, as the news spread late of the sanctuary's completion.
"I haven't preached in this pulpit in two years," said Pastor Curt Ayers. "I am grateful to the sacrificial giving of God's people and look forward to reaching people for Christ."
"Thirty years after the original cornerstone was laid, the renovation was completed and what a gift," wrote Dale Williamson, church elder and board chairman, in an email. The timing also corresponds with the 20th anniversary of Ayers call to CCC.
The church had its first worship service on Nov. 13, 1977 in the Capri Community Center on the Isles of Capri. Prior to that snowbirds and transplanted northerners met in homes. Pastor Carlyle Watterworth served as their first minister.
On Feb. 1, 1978 the church applied to the state for incorporation. By 1980, the average attendance had risen to between 45 and 65 and thoughts turned to building their own house of worship. Five lots were purchased at the corner of Capri Boulevard and East Hilo Street and a groundbreaking was held Dec. 20, 1981.
The original sanctuary sat 120 people with an overflow area for an additional 50 people and a baptistery. There were five classrooms, a nursery, minister's office, kitchen, men and women's restrooms and a fellowship hall with a fireplace, constituting 4,100 square feet of total space.
In June 1982, Pastor Curt Ayers and his family were called to CCC. He had previously served as senior pastor in Springdale, Ark. Prior to that he had served as a youth pastor.
"I got sand in my shoes and never got it out. I had to get back," said Ayers who had previously lived briefly in Florida.
The steeple went up on the church on July 2, 1982. A cornerstone laying service was held and mementos were placed in the wall. The mementos included newspaper clippings and a list of founders as well as names of those in attendance at the service. The capsule was retrieved when the wall was demolished to make way for the expansion.
"We were so excited when we built that church," said Betty Dials who was at the 1982 cornerstone laying service.
The church continued to grow as more people moved to the Isles of Capri, Marco Island and the neighboring areas. By 2000, the church needed a larger educational building. Funds were raised and additional lots were purchased to construct a larger facility.
As growth continued, the elders began to discuss the need for a larger sanctuary. Ideas were tossed around for almost four years. With attendance approaching 500 each Sunday a decision was made in September 2010 to renovate the sanctuary by adding onto each side. A total of approximately 1,200 square feet was added to give about 75 percent more seats. The theme building project theme was "Making Room for More."
"The Lord taught us patience and He rewarded us by having the expansion paid for and it's a beauty," said Bill Gepford, church treasurer.
They had hoped the expansion would have been completed a year ago but it was delayed due to permitting, code and contractor issues.
"God's given us a resource to reach new people," said Ayers of the expansion. "The opening was a joyous surprise, a long-awaited birth of a new building, something new out of something old."
The sanctuary incorporates more technology, new lighting and an enhanced sound system. They also have a new energy-efficient air system and new landscaping.
"God has blessed us with the means to be able to expand our auditorium with more seating," wrote Associate and Music Pastor Steven Dawes in an email. "Now we must continue to be diligent in getting out and inviting those people to come and enjoy the Lord with us."
In the church's next budget year they plan to add a video system that will allow them to record services and to also allow attendees to see everyone from the preacher to the soloists on big screens. They also plan to provide worship DVDs for shut-ins and visitors as well as post videos of services on their website.
"We are grateful to God to allow us the resources, the people, leadership and inspiration to complete this project," said Ayers. "I pray that God will give us a vision of how we can help, touch and feed people both physically and spiritually and that He will inspire us and challenge us to carry out that vision."
"What will God do here next," continued Ayers, "What does He want us to do with this church and property?"
Kathleen Tuttle, a Marco Island resident since 1987, has written articles for various nonprofits for more than 25 years. She is a community volunteer, former science teacher and microbiologist. Kathleen can be contacted at email@example.com.
YMCA: 5-Day Club, 10-11:30 a.m. July 23-27. Kindergarten through fifth grade. Registration forms available at the Y.
The Family Church, New Life Community and Wesley United Methodist churches have joined forces to provide 1,000 backpacks to area students. The churches will also collect $20 Walmart gift cards on Aug. 5. A gift card will be placed in each backpack for the students' school needs. Contact the individual churches for more details.
Marco Presbyterian Church
Women's interactive Bible study, based on the Lifeguide book "Psalms: Prayers of the Heart" by Eugene Peterson, the author of "The Message," meets at 9 a.m. every Friday in the Fellowship Hall. The study brings to life how the Psalms help people relate to God as they pray their doubt, fears and anger away. Study guides are $5.50 and are available at the church.
A family friendly Gilligan's Island Bible Study meets 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. Board the Minnow for dinner and tour the Seven Deadly Sins on Gilligan's Island; dinner at 6 p.m., followed by the study.
Marco Lutheran Church
English as a Second Language classes, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays and 10 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays through August.
Men's Small Group Study, 8:45 to 9:45 a.m. Tuesday's through July 31. The study entitled "Colt McCoy — A Father, A Son, and Football" focuses on how Cleveland Browns' quarterback puts his service and commitment to God at the front of the line, even when the going gets tough.
Wesley United Methodist Church
The Story of Noah and the Ark Theater Camp for ages 4 to 18, 9 a.m. to noon, Aug. 13 to 17, free. The play is entitled "100% Chance of Rain." Please register in the church office.
GriefShare is a seminar/support group for adults grieving the death of a loved one. The group meets 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday's in the Hensel Room. Each session provides Biblical insights, as well as practical strategies for dealing with a variety of grief-related issues. It's a safe place to find comfort, hope and healing. To learn more, visit griefshare.org. GriefShare runs in 13-week cycles, which repeats throughout the year. Each session is self-contained and participants may join the group at any time. There is a one-time $20 registration fee, which includes a workbook and unlimited visits. Help is available for those who cannot afford to pay the registration fee. For more information, call the church.
Jewish Congregation of Marco Island
Guest speaker Hannah Rose will share how her painting "Crazy Love," was chosen by the United Nations for its 2012 Autism Awareness Stamp at the 8 p.m., Aug. 3 worship service.