The recent closure of Grace Lutheran church in Santa Barbara signifies an ending in one sense, but it is also a sign of a fresh beginning. The gifting of the land to California Lutheran Homes and the city housing authority will allow Grace’s legacy of service to its community to continue by providing much needed housing to low-income seniors.
While the closing of Grace Lutheran Church creates a new legacy of shelter for vulnerable seniors through the development of Grace Village an affordable housing community for low-income seniors, the congregation is assuring vital ongoing support for its new residents through Grace Village Services as well as ongoing support for low-income families and individuals served by local community agencies.
Grace Housing Inc., a nonprofit corporation, has been formed to receive and distribute lease income from Grace Lutheran’s properties now administered by California Lutheran Homes. Income from these leases will fund local services through a Legacy Framework established by the congregation. The congregation will see funding continue for community organizations supporting the mission of establishing permanent housing for families and food security, including Transition House and Habitat for Humanity, as well as Grace Lutheran’s 40-year-old Saturday food program, the Grace Food Pantry.
Construction of Grace Village is expected to break ground in 2016, followed by an estimated 18-month construction schedule.
The Grace Lutheran facility will also continue to serve the community until construction begins, as the church building will continue to host the many community groups that have been meeting there over the years, including several 12-Step groups, Alzheimer's support groups, Grace Quilters and others.
“Although with a measure of pain and a sense of loss, the closing of the Grace congregation does not mean the end of a ministry,” said Pat Wheatley, president of Grace Lutheran Church. “In fact, closing has provided the congregation an opportunity of expanding that ministry throughout the years as we try to listen to what God is calling us to do.”
As a long established Lutheran church on State Street with strong ties to the community for more than a century, Grace Lutheran knows the importance of leaving a legacy.
“The need in Santa Barbara for affordable, truly affordable, housing for the aging population was a ministry we could see belonged at this site,” said Rev. Lynn Bruer, former pastor of Grace Lutheran. “For more than a decade, as the congregation saw that it was increasing in age and not growing in numbers, they have had intentional conversations about the future and the mission.”
Along the way, Grace board members came up with several good ideas and affordable senior housing was one of them.
“This is a strong partnership,” said CLH president and CEO Rev. Gary Wheeler. “Both Grace Lutheran and California Lutheran Homes have a strong commitment to social ministry and the creation of affordable housing is a way of making a real difference in the lives of those we serve.”
The City of Santa Barbara recently updated its general plan to add additional affordable housing to meet increased need, according to Bill Jennings, CLH CFO.
“CLH has a long history of turning donors’ gifts into lasting legacies,” Rev. Wheeler said. “Our work with CARING Housing Ministries in the area of affordable housing is just one way we and our partners can make a difference in people’s lives. Working with churches who want to use their resources to leave a lasting legacy of social ministry is an important outgrowth of our collaborative work through the church.”
For more information on how you can leave a legacy through CLH, contact CLH Executive Jill Hammer at 800-233-3709 or visit californialutheranhomes.org.
CALIFORNIA LUTHERAN HOMES AND COMMUNITY SERVICES
California Lutheran Homes and Community Services (CLH) is a not-for-profit social ministry organization founded in 1947. CLH’s mission is meeting needs through ‘faith in action’ including support for residents of affordable housing communities managed by partner CARING Housing Ministries, and residents of Front Porch retirement communities, care centers and active-adult communities. CLH-sponsored retirement and active-adult living communities include Carlsbad By The Sea in Carlsbad, CA; Walnut Village in Anaheim, CA, England Oaks in Alexandria, VA and Cecil Pines in Jacksonville, FL. Among the programs and services supported by CLH are the CLH Center for Spirituality and Aging, whose mission is to meet the needs of older adults based on the understanding that aging is a spiritual journey; the Front Porch Gallery, which creates community by promoting an understanding of aging through art; the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, which enhances wellbeing and quality of life through the adaptive use of technology; the CLH Auxiliary; and the Charitable Care Fund, which supports residents in need who have outlived their finances.