HIV/AIDS Loss & Change

1990 ushered in the “Gay 90’s.” There was a surge in membership and attendance. Two services on a Sunday morning were necessary to accommodate worshipers.

A food pantry was started for persons with AIDS (PWA) and needy persons. Weekly dinners were sponsored by AIDS Manasota and were co-hosted by the Church with volunteers preparing and serving the food.

The Southwest Florida Business Guild began at the Church, founded by parishioners. Members and friends volunteered for AIDS Manasota. Sarasota AIDS Support and CDEA also met there. Meetings of GALA were also held in the Church. In June a very successful “Pride Day” sponsored by the Business Guild was held. Some 15 organizations participated and over 400 people attended. All this was in addition to a regular Church program of special services and educational possibilities.

“Parishes” also met on a monthly basis for social and spiritual interaction. These were Southern Friends, the Sarasota Parish, and Manatee Friends. They sponsored cook-outs, skating parties, swimming parties, camping, game nights – as well as bible study and discussion groups. It was a wonderful time!

At the Tenth Anniversary celebration, there was an open house, musical entertainment, a revival, and a visit by Rev. Elder Troy Perry to bless the Robert Pierce-Robert Murch union. It all felt too good to be true – and it was.

The Reverend Robert E. Pierce died early in 1992 of complications related to HIV/AIDS. His memorial service was held in the nearly finished sanctuary on February 6, 1992.

The church’s original worship space was re dedicated as “the Reverend Robert E. Pierce Hall” in his honor.

The Reverend T. Edward Helms preached his first sermon as the pastor of the Church on June 7, 1992. As the 90’s continued, the Church solidified its personal base with the addition the new Assistant Pastor, Rev. Sherry Kennedy.

Now with a facility to be used, the development of fabulous shows in the form of the Follies, parties and events that the community seemed to long for. With the departure of the Reverend T. Edward Helms in January, 1996, the Reverend Gustave Kein was elected as Pastor. The Church seemed to be at a “resting point,” examining itself and attempting to establish where and what it should be doing as a group.

Several major changes in the appearance of the campus occurred at this time. The directions to the Church were no longer “go north to the end of Lockwood Ridge Road and then go just a bit further and turn to the right.” The completion of Lockwood Ridge Road through to SR 70 allowed the Church up to be seen by anyone passing by. Then, a major wireless communication company contacted the Church about the possibility of a tower on the land. The first response was both of joy for the possible income and of dread for the disfiguring of the land. But the Spirit works in strange ways, and the result was a wireless tower in the form of a cross that towered over the area and can be seen easily from the now completed road.

Reverend Gus Kein resigned in 2001 to return to his home and home Church in Fort Lauderdale. A search committee was established and letters were sent out to solicit possible new Pastors.