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What makes this church so attractive?

SEMINOLE Faith Presbyterian focuses on children and now, on music.

By WAVENEY ANN MOORE, Times Staff Writer
Published October 31, 2007


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For a mainline church, Faith Presbyterian is doing quite well. It is one of the largest Presbyterian churches in the Tampa Bay area, bursting with active young families that congregations crave, and a vacation Bible school, Sunday school and preschool programs that grow each year.

This fall, the church will introduce a program to draw even more people to its campus at 11501 Walker Ave. N.

From November through May, the church will offer a Faith in the Arts program that will include concerts by the Seminole High School Chorus, the Suncoast Singers and John and Mary K. Wilson.

"It's a desire to create opportunities for our local community to experience the arts in the context of a church," associate pastor the Rev. Matthew E. Miller said.

The goal is to reach out to a wide swath of the community, including those who don't attend church, teens, 20-somethings, couples, singles and seniors. Miller said the church hopes to hang temporary banners advertising the concerts on Duhme Road.

Meanwhile, the congregation of about 800 members, who live in Seminole, Largo, the beaches, Clearwater and St. Petersburg, has almost completed an 8,000-square- foot Children's Ministry Building for its growing population of youngsters.

It was six years ago that the church hired its first full-time director to invigorate the children's ministry. At the time, the children's program was limited to Sunday school and a preschool with an enrollment of about 45 to 50, said Kim Gunthner, whose complete title is director of Christian education focusing on children's ministry.

Together with the preschool, Wednesday night Pioneer Club for children 2 years old to fifth grade, Mom's Morning Out program, Little Lambs play group and Sunday school, Faith Presbyterian touches the lives of about 200 children each week, Gunthner said. The church also has Girl Scouts for grades 2-5 and several other children's groups.

Growth has come from a purposeful public relations campaign.

"We just started outreaching to the families and just outreaching into the community with different activities," Gunthner said. For instance, the church appears at Seminole's annual Pow Wow Festival and Parade and its Bright Before Your Eyes Holiday Parade.

"One of the areas that just exploded is our vacation Bible school. This year, we had 377 children registered and about 100 volunteers. It grows each year," Gunthner said, adding that the free program has no enrollment cap.

"We really don't want to close our doors to anyone," she said.

The emphasis on children pleases Miller, the associate pastor who is a recent seminary graduate. He and his wife, Brandy, have two children, Arden, 2 1/2, and Levi, 9 months old.

"One of the things I appreciate at this church is we don't see the children as the future of the church, but as the church. They are part of the worshiping body," Miller said.'

Faith Presbyterian also offers classes and small-group programs for adults on Wednesday nights, he said. Parents of young children don't need to worry about a babysitter, because their children can participate in the church's Pioneer Club.

To maintain growth, the church, which is celebrating its 47th anniversary, is launching its Faith in the Arts concerts.

The congregation is allowing the Suncoast Singers, a 28-year-old secular choir, to rehearse there. The group will give three concerts as part of Faith in the Arts and use the church as the midtown venue for its regular concerts.

"We hope it will be a win-win," said Don Bayer, a member of both Faith Presbyterian and the Suncoast Singers.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or 892-2283.

SAVE THE DATE

Faith in the Arts concerts

Suncoast Singers, We Love America, 3:30 p.m. Nov. 18, $16 at door. Free refreshments.

Faith Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir and Orchestra, Christmas musical, Journey of Promises, 9:20 and 11 a.m. services Dec. 9.

John and Mary K. Wilson & Friends Christmas concert, Caring and Carols, $10 and freewill offering for Samaritan's Purse, 7 p.m. Dec. 15.

Brass Roots Trio, Feel the Spirit concert, 3 p.m. Jan. 13, $16.

Children of the World, 3:30 p.m., February date to be announced, $16. Open house for Children's Ministry Building.

Seminole High School Band soiree with dinner, 5:30 p.m. Feb. 5. Concert to follow. Fundraiser for band trip. Reservations, 560-9681.

Seminole High School Chorus, Broadway and 42nd Street,6:30 p.m. Feb. 16, $20. Benefit concert and dinner. Fundraiser for chorus trip. Reservations, 593-1459.

Community Chorus and Choir Workshop and Mass Choir Concert, 3:30 p.m. Feb. 23. Freewill offering for concert.

Faith Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir and Orchestra's Easter musical, 9:20 and 11 a.m. services March 16.

Suncoast Singers concert, An Andrew Lloyd Webber Afternoon, 3:30 p.m. April 6, $16. Free refreshments.

Suncoast Singers concert, Harmony for Honduras, featuring American music favorites, 5:30 p.m. May 17. Benefit concert, Carrabba's dinner and silent auction, $20. Reservations, 391-0596.

All are at Faith Presbyterian Church, 11501 Walker Ave. N, Seminole. Call 727 391-0596 to confirm dates.

[Last modified October 30, 2007, 23:20:40]


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