Rising from the Ashes: Financial Campaign Gives St. Paul’s United Church Hope for Its Future

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St. Paul’s United Church in Milton, Ontario, is a strong faith community with a proud heritage. With its towering presence in historic downtown Milton, St. Paul’s has been a gathering point for the community for more than 120 years. But a devastating fire to the church building in 2010, along with badly-needed renovations in their four-decades-old Christian Education Centre, caused the St. Paul’s congregation to struggle to find God’s direction for their future.

Through conversations with Barbara Fullerton, then stewardship development coordinator for The United Church of Canada, St. Paul’s leadership learned of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s Capital Campaign Network. The Network, comprised of capital campaign consultants who primarily serve congregations and other religious groups, has a unique advantage of understanding congregational culture.

St. Paul’s fundraising group interviewed Network consultant Sandy Lindahl via Skype. Rev. Michelle Hogman, St. Paul’s pastor, was encouraged by the conversation. “Sandy was clear, gracious and encouraging. But the transformative part for me and some others was when they heard from Sandy how this process of raising funds for a building project was also at its core about our values. I was relieved to hear that. As the minister appointed to help the congregation deal with conflict (over the building) and help go through a capital fundraising campaign, I knew this needed to be about more than raising money.” The leadership agreed to move forward.

Sandy facilitated creating an outline to keep the project focused. “That alone was a newer and welcome development for a congregation that recently has had difficulty completing a plan,” said Rev. Hogman. “The plan helped the fundraising team to feel they were capable of doing this project. The tasks were laid out in a way that no one task seemed insurmountable.”

The campaign theme “Sharing Faith – Building Community” provided a strong, positive vision for the campaign and the guidepost for ongoing consistent and positive communication to the congregation. The spirit in which the campaign was presented also has helped the congregation heal old wounds and discover renewed energy and purpose, becoming the vehicle around which many spiritual and values-laden issues were explored.

The transformational process continues for the congregation’s house of worship and for its members. To date, 2/3 of the $1,800,000 campaign goal has been received. Much of the work on the exterior of the sanctuary has been completed, with work now focused on the interior restoration. The congregation hopes to begin worshipping in the renovated facilities later this spring. And they continue to learn what it means to contribute their best gifts to the congregation’s mission and ministry.

“I am very glad that St. Paul’s called upon external expertise for this project,” said Rev. Hogman. “While best practices suggest this was not a good time or situation for achieving a positive result, we were, I believe, in a position where we had to decide whether or not we wanted to move forward.”

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