By YVETTE C. HAMMETT
Disciples of Christ Christian Fellowship, a church that started out in the Rev. Kenneth and Mrs. Mary Jo McKay’s living room in 2004, is now planted in a brand-new sanctuary on Rhodine Road in Riverview. “This was a way for us to expand our ministry in the way we have wanted to do for a very long time,” Mary Jo McKay said. “We started in our home, then we went to a small place on Causeway Boulevard and ended up on Gibsonton Drive,” she said.
“We were at a crossroads seven years ago of whether to rent again or find land to build. We voted to build,” McKay said. It was not so much a lack of space, though there was some, but more about expanding the types of ministries the church wanted.
Along with the new sanctuary, offices, dining hall and classrooms, there are future plans for a wellness center, a community garden, psychological counseling, a community picnic area and a soccer field. The church purchased 10 acres, so there is plenty of room for expansion.
“Phase two is a picnic grounds right behind the church, and we will start it in about six months. Phase three is a community garden, the wellness center and a small soccer field, all within a couple of years,” McKay explained.
It will use its picnic grounds for community events and hopes to sign a contract with a psychological counselor to offer counseling at a reduced cost for those who cannot afford it, otherwise.
“There are a lot of stressors in the world,” McKay continued. “We want to be able to have psychologists, counselors we contract with that are Christian-based, to offer those types of help. It is our desire to disciple to those who are true followers of Christ,” she said. “And to look at the total person, body, mind and spirit. If you are going to be a disciple of Christ, your health needs to be important to you.”
She added, “My husband is an avid weightlifter and believes the body and spirit both must be fit,” she said. “That’s where the health and wellness center comes in.”
The 120 active church members made a commitment to fund the new church buildings. “We all faithfully gave for seven years,” McKay said. “We also kept our eyes on the vision. We are very, very frugal. We said, ‘Let’s apply that simple math along with our faith and our giving.’ We also got a few outside people to believe in the ministry.
Disciples of Christ is involved in several outreach ministries, one of which is to feed the homeless in the area, and another is to serve Gibsonton Elementary School, a Title 1 school where most students are eligible for free or reduced lunches. “We went to the principal and asked what was needed,” McKay said. The church purchased 300 packs of Crayons and is in line for whatever the school needs next.
The church, which is made up almost entirely of brown people, many from the Caribbean islands, also sponsors a Haitian missionary who returns to her home country each year to give back. “The community in her hometown in Haiti saved her children from drowning,”McKay said. The woman, who lives in Miami, travels back each year with clothes and school supplies and cooks for the community. Disciples of Christ funds much of that trip.
“We embrace all ethnicities. We want to be a church for all ethnicities,” McKay said. “We do a lot of different music so various cultures will feel comfortable. It is important to us for our services to be available for all ethnicities. You can be a part of something and [belong to a community] that cares about the total you.”
To learn more, visit https://doccf.org/.