Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Renewed congregation receives challenge grant for capital repairs

February 11, 2014 04:04 PM

By Nancy Compton


After three years without a pastor, First Lutheran Church in Poughkeepsie called Pastor Deborah Hafner DeWinter. It was great to feel the renewed energy. Pastor DeWinter was full of ideas for our future, and our congregation was anxious to move forward.


However, we started to notice things in our 158-year old church building that went beyond regular repairs. Tiles were falling from the ceiling in the nursery. We did not know how long the cracks in the walls of the church had been there or if they were getting bigger. The choir loft seemed to be pulling away from the wall. The Congregation Council contacted a structural engineer to help us determine the cause and scope of the problem so we could be sure that those using the building would be safe. Our building is used by Lost and Found (an AA group), New Deliverance Church, and Dutchess County Office for the Aging Senior Friendship Center. Once a month on a Wednesday, we host the Lunch N Listen program, inviting the community into our building to hear local musicians perform. We were in the beginning stages of our Chinese Welcome Center for Chinese restaurant workers trying to learn English. And we were also looking to start a Worship Respite Program, where caregivers could bring their loved ones on a Sunday morning so they could attend and receive support at their own worship service. The timing was terrible!



Pastor Marc Herbst visits First, Poughkeepsie

After a thorough and seemingly endless investigation, it was determined that water leaking from the roof was most likely the cause of our wall problems. Estimates were obtained and options were evaluated, but basically there were none. The roof repair would cost nearly $50,000.


During this time it was easy to be discouraged; however, we continued our mission work. We began our partnership with Habitat for Humanity, providing breakfast, lunch, and a few volunteers for a local build. Then we opened our doors to the community on Make a Difference Day, offering a place for lunch and fellowship for all those working in the area, which was an amazing number of people (see picture at top).


A special congregational meeting was called, and we reached out to the Metro New York Synod to see if there were any resources available to help us. At the meeting, the congregation voted to proceed with the roof repairs as needed, funding them with a capital campaign and financing if required. The response to the capital campaign from our small congregation was overwhelming.



Pastor Koran, Pastor DeWinter, and Bishop Rimbo

We were so encouraged to receive a Mission Redevelopment Challenge Grant from the Synod Council, with our synod giving $2 for every $1 we raised up to two-thirds of the repair costs. Then Pastor Marc Herbst, Assistant to the Bishop for Strategic Plan Implementation, came to look at what we are doing in mission, as well as with our current building issues. First, Poughkeepsie is grateful to the congregation for their generous support of our capital campaign and our other ministries and to the Synod Council for this matching grant, and for the vote of confidence it represents. This allows us to concentrate on doing God’s work with our hands.


"Our strategic plan specifically charges us to assure word and sacrament ministry will be provided on the territory of our synod," says Pastor Kathleen Koran, Assistant to the Bishop for Congregations. "This grant supports First, Poughkeepsie as a vital inner city site for mission, and a vibrant partner in ministry. Their excitement for ministry is palpable."




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