1995: SunCoast Cathedral MCC Founded
Founded by Rev. Sherry Kenndy, SunCoast Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church had its beginning in mid-February 1995, when 78 people gathered at the Days Inn in Venice to lay plans for a new church in the greater Venice/Port Charlotte area. From its inception, this unique church has experienced phenomenal growth, even setting a denominational record for attendance at the preliminary planning meeting.
While many of the initial SunCoast members had some previous MCC exposure, increasing numbers soon joined to find out what MCC was all about and to experience this wonderful celebration for themselves. In the second full month of operation, SunCoast broke 100 in Sunday attendance at the Easter celebration.
SunCoast continued to meet together, renting space at the Days Inn, and like “spiritual bag-people” packed and unpacked the Church every Sunday. They shared the vision of purchasing land and facilities in order to become a multi-faceted ministry center. In April when the church was a mere two and a half months old, a handful of people began negotiations on the present five acre plot which also had a 10,000 square foot facility. Undaunted by the half-million dollar plus price tag, they offered $300,000, which was accepted and raised the $100,000 down payment by mid-August. The location was absolutely perfect for the target area of outreach, five minutes off I-75, convenient from either Exit 191 or 193. The large building previously housed an independent Full Gospel church and so many amenities were included in the sale: padded oak pews and chairs, oak pulpit and altar, Baldwin grand piano and Conn organ, sound system and even Choir robes! It had auditorium type seating for 400 + with a 20° incline and large stage.
The opening worship service in the new building was held just two days before the group’s seven-month anniversary! Two hundred and five people attended that day to proclaim the faithfulness of God who had provided marvelously for the needs of God’s wilderness people. By our first Christmas, the Cathedral Choir had grown to nearly 15 music ministers who proudly donned the gold SunCoast choir robes left behind by the previous congregation. We celebrated our first anniversary in February and on February 11, 1996 we officially dedicated our building with over 200 attending.
1996-2016 SunCoast MCC Celebrated Many Successes and 30 Years of Rev. Kennedy’s Ministry
The years from 1996 to 2000 were years of fine-tuning, refining and growing deeper in our faith. We developed and launched many ministries in education, congregational care, and outreach.
Tropical Storm Gabrielle in 2001 ushered in a new set of challenges that we have met. Due to the tropical storm we encountered the “mold challenge.” This challenge brought about many changes. The garage/barn was converted into a chapel and the sanctuary of the main building was closed down in 2002 due to toxic mold. Developing the chapel and purchasing a modular for office/meeting space caused us to deal with another set of difficulties. We encountered delays in obtaining permits, code compliance issues, and the acquisition and set up of the modular.
In 2007, we engaged the services of a professional organization to lead us in a capital campaign, “Let Us Arise & Rebuild” (inspired by Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem). We hired a builder, engineer and site developer and embarked on the journey that has brought us to this place. As funds were raised, the foundation of the new sanctuary was poured (containing our Foundational Scriptures ascribed on stones) and the new facility began taking shape.
Despite countless delays and setbacks, and the economic downturn in 2008 this faithful congregation stood firm by prayer, faith and a knowledge that God alone knew the plans for our prosperity, not SunCoast’s destruction. The rebuilding of the facility moved forward and in March 2010, we entered a new phase of our growth and experience as our new 6,800 square foot facility was opened.
In 2015 SunCoast Cathedral MCC celebrated its 20th anniversary, and in the Spring of that same year, the congregation encountered the unexpected passing of our founding Pastor, Rev. Dr. Sherry Kennedy. Needing a time of healing and assessment, we continued our journey when Rev. Vickie Miller became our GAP Pastor, followed by Rev. Gina Durbin, as our Interim Pastor from 2015 to 2017.
2017-Present: SunCoast MCC Continues to Expand Community Presence under Rev. Miller’s and Rev. Wilson’s Ministry
On March 19th, 2017, after an extensive search by our Pastoral Search Team, our members elected Rev. Vickie Miller and Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson as our Senior Pastors.
On June 17, 2017, we gathered for a Congregational Retreat. During our time of healing, decision-making and dreaming, feedback was provided by those attending on the proposed Vision and Mission Statements for SunCoast MCC. Following a period of prayer and discernment, the team charged to work on the Vision and Mission statements met to consider the feedback received. After their thoughtful review and discussion, the statements were presented and eventually at the February 2018 Congregational Meeting approved.
In November of 2018, SunCoast MCC sponsored the first Venice Pride event on church grounds. The event had 40 vendors and more than 500 attendees. It included entertainment, visits by local politicians and a pet blessing. The festival has become an annual event, growing each year. Members of the church served on the Venice Pride’s first Board of Directors and formed Venice Pride, Inc., a non-profit organization.
In 2019, we purchased and dedicated our new digital sign and the main building got a much-needed new roof, exterior painting and repairs. Attendance reached new levels of growth.
The church then experienced the 2020-21 health pandemic of Covid-19. In-person church services were immediately halted for several months; a worship team persevered by providing weekly worship services that were viewable on-line. Virtual attendance remained steady, and the church completed a capital campaign program, raising over $130,000 in the midst of this crisis. Funds were dedicated to the church’s building fund and used to decrease the principal on the church’s mortgage. Eventually an outdoor sound system was purchased, and worship services were held weekly outside on the church grounds for several months, including the 2020 Christmas Eve service. During the pandemic church volunteers got busy tidying and refreshing the interior of the sanctuary with fresh paint, repairs, and with the help of a special Easter offering, enough funds were secured to refinish the sanctuary floors.
Through our challenges and blessings we continue to see God’s hand at work in ways we never would have expected. God indeed is moving at SunCoast as we grow in spirit and in number. The church offers a range of ministry opportunities, programs and services and we look toward the future with faith and enthusiasm as God continues to open incredible doors for our work in the greater Venice and beyond.