It’s a bittersweet ending for St. John Lutheran Church in North Portland.
Sharon Giddings’s grandma Mandy Lind founded the church in 1931. Through word of mouth, a thriving congregation with hundreds of parishioners amassed outgrowing many locations in the St. John’s neighborhood. In the 1950s, they were able to finance the building of a new church. By the 1960s, the congregation outgrew this location too so built a bigger building next door that still stands today.
Now, more than 90 years later, the congregation has dwindled to a small group of mostly seniors. The aging building needs many large repairs including a new roof. Plus, there is less than a handful of people left to maintain the property. So the congregation made the tough decision to sell the building.
“The writing was on the wall,” says Giddings. “We weren’t going to be able to make repairs and keep it going. On a good Sunday, we had about 15 people coming. We ran out of money to even pay the pastor. If we want it to stay a church we’d need to sell it for less than what it’s worth.”
The church buildings and land sold for a little more than $1 million to The Rock of Salvation church congregation which had been renting at the site.
The congregation formed a Dissolution Committee and asked fellow parishioners to contribute the names of organizations that they felt passionate about supporting with the earnings. They would distribute all revenue from the sale to local nonprofits and churches after paying their numerous bills and severance for the pastor.
“I thought about my grandma. She would be sad but very happy to know that the money is going to good charities,” Giddings says. “She volunteered thousands of hours at the veteran’s hospital during her life. The mission has always been to spread the gospel and help others.”
Church Sale Spreads Grandma’s Mission to Help Others
The church gave to a total of 30 organizations in the Portland area including Blanchet House, Bybee Lakes Hope Center, Sunshine Division, and six Lutheran churches. Blanchet House received a generous check for $37,520 from the sale.
“We gave to the charities we felt were doing the most work and have been around forever,” she says. “It’s spread all over. That feels really good. We just figured any amount of money people get will help them. We had just over $1 million dollars to give. It’s all accounted for by the Justice Department.”
In addition to the financial benefits the sale brings local charitable organizations, the church building will house a new growing congregation made up of many young families. The new owners will also rent the space to current tenants Horeb Ethiopian Church and Shining Star Waldorf school.
“A Hispanic church has bought the property. It’s a positive thing. We’re very happy that it won’t be torn down,” says Giddings. “It makes us feel good to be able to help others. That’s what we’re about. Spreading God’s love.”