EAST COUNTY — The Rev. Brian Bagley-Bonner is helping to chart a new course for Faith United Church of Christ.
The Ohio transplant walks from his office toward the church lobby, where a rendering of the church’s conceptual master plan hangs on the wall.
The picture shows the multi-purpose room used as the church’s current sanctuary, as well as a courtyard, offices, a nursery and new sanctuary with seating for more than 300 people. A wing at the back of the building, which was constructed in about 2008, includes space for the preschool program the church hosts, as well as a youth room and space for social events and gatherings.
“This was the dream plan,” says Bagley-Bonner, who joined Faith as its new pastor, part-time, Feb. 1. “Even though (the church) was conservative about the (new wing), several members lost their jobs and longtime members (moved away). Last year, the church struggled to pay its ($4,000 monthly) mortgage (payment) on this (new) part.
“We’ve made it so far, but just by robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he says. “It wasn’t (sustainable). We’re radically changed.”
Faith plans to expand its sanctuary facility eventually, but there’s no question things will be different than in this original picture.
Faith’s financial insecurity prompted its congregation to sell a 1.155-acre portion of its property, at the corner of 48th Street Court East and State Road 64, to Thornton’s, a gas station/convenience store.
The Bradenton City Council approved plans for the project March 27, though finalization of the land sale still is pending.
Once the sale goes through, likely in the fall, Faith will be able to pay off its entire mortgage and have some leftover money to make much-needed improvements to the existing facility, or for other needs, Bagley-Bonner said. He hopes to use some of the monies to expand the church’s ministry opportunities and investment in missions, as well.
The Thornton’s site, which will be fenced, comes within yards of the church’s front sidewalk. Bagley-Bonner admitted it’s close, but said Faith still has plenty of land at the back of the property, and it continues to serve as a buffer between S.R. 64 and the Braden River Lakes community.
The church’s main entrance will be moved slightly, but parking largely will remain untouched. The parking area will continue to serve as a bus stop location for children in Braden River Lakes.
Bagley-Bonner now will help oversee the process moving forward.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
• Jan. 18, 2012 —
Faith United Church of Christ representatives meet with United Church of Christ officials in a conversation called “Saving Faith.”
• Feb. 13, 2012 — Council calls for a congregational vote to sell a one-acre parcel.
• Feb. 19, 2012 — Congregation votes to offer the land for sale.
• March 5, 2012 — Council meets representatives of the Apostolic Assembly of the Faith in Christ Jesus and decides to put sharing the building to a vote.
• March 11, 2012 — Congregation votes to share building with AAFCJ starting May 1.
• June 17, 2012 — Congregation votes to sell 1.155 acres to Thornton’s.
• March 27, 2013 — Bradenton City Council approves plans to build a Thornton’s gas station/convenience store on Faith property.
— Courtesy of the Rev. Brian Bagley-Bonner
About the pastor
The Rev. Brian Bagley-Bonner was born in Sarasota but grew up in Ohio, where he lived with his wife, Judith, before moving back to Florida.
Bagley-Bonner said he took the pastor position with Faith United Church of Christ, in part, to be closer to his parents, who live in Ellenton.
“I’m their only child. I’m also their support right now,” he said.
Bagley-Bonner is excited about his new position and the congregation he now serves.
“It’s been the best match I’ve ever had right from the start, in terms of vision and theology,” he said.
Faith has about 80 attendees at its Sunday-morning service, but Bagley-Bonner hopes to attract more members.
“I think because we’re a church that emphasizes questions, not answers, there are people who will find a place here,” he said.
Bagley-Bonner said, in the future, he wants to expand offerings to nearby families, possibly adding a tutoring program for local children, among other ideas.
Bagley-Bonner spent the last eight years as a hospice chaplain and educator.