Foreclosure proceedings have forced one Lakewood Ranch church to close its doors just days before Easter.
According to Faith Christian Church's website, the church will not be hold Easter services as it intended.
As late as last Sunday, the church had planned for Easter Sunday to be its final day. However, church officials said foreclosure proceedings will prevent that from happening.
"Overnight and without our knowledge or permission, Community Bank zeroed out our entire bank account and applied that money to our delinquent loan," church elders Sam Jameson
Paul Palmer and Jeff Weatherhead wrote on the website. "The only way this came to our attention was because we started having checks bounce, including some of our missionaries that we were trying to provide a year's worth of support.
"We called the bank and were told to call the VP of recovery," they wrote. "He basically told us that the bank was under no prior obligation to give a prior warning to take our money and that basically this was our problem as a delinquent loan holder.
"We therefore cannot pay utilities, insurance, payroll or any other of our bills," they wrote. "In fact, our staff's payroll for this past two weeks has bounced, and so they are not receiving their pay that is due them. Also, our insurance checks have bounced.
"With that in mind we must cancel services, as we cannot have people on the property without any liability coverage nor is it right to use the building when we have no way to pay for electricity, water, garbage, etc.," they wrote.
We are heartbroken that it has come to this," they wrote. "However, we feel the urgent thing to do now is provide as much as possible for our people (staff and missionaries). We are frustrated that a good deal of that money has now been arbitrarily applied to the delinquent loan without our knowledge."
Financial problems at Faith Christian date back several years. At the end of 2010, the church employed a "bare bones" budget, eliminated the worship director position and instituted a 5% pay cut for all staffers. It also used $22,000 of its Capital Campaign fund to pay other bills in 2010.
However, with new churches planting roots in the East County, Faith Christian's attendance numbers did not grow. In the first five months of 2011, the church was falling short of its hard costs by about $200 per week, the elders said.
Beginning in May 2011, the church began exploring measures to keep the church open, including negotiating with its lein-holders and seeking partnerships with other churches.
Faith Christian owes $1 million on the property.
Danny Beeson, a church member who served on its music for eight years and led the team for the past four, said the closing is heart-breaking for its congregation.
“We have done all we can to negotiate with the banks, look for alternate financing or short-sale buyers, but nothing has worked,” he said. “At this point, all I guess I can ask is that you make aware to the public how crucial it is to support your place of worship and make reasonable decisions as leaders for your congregation.”
When open, the church was active in the East County community. For two years, it hosted a prom for residents with special needs.