Before we get to the “History”, which basically provides a portrait of “where, when and how” Cornerstone existed prior to where we are today, there are a few things you should know! Cornerstone is an eclectic, authentic and passionate community. The richest part of our history involves more of what God has done and is doing than “where, when and how” we have arrived where we are today. Cornerstone has long held on to the motto, “Becoming God’s Church” as a testimony to the fact that while Cornerstone was the beginning of a new community in Naples – we are engrafted to a far greater history than ourselves. As participants in God’s story no church is ever new – but rather – Becoming God’s church together along with all those who have gone before us and will come after us. That being said, Cornerstone is rather unique! As a community we have successfully blended high liturgy with the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit. The community has also successfully blended all ages together in worship. The Bishop Timothy Whitaker has described Cornerstone as Radical Liturgical. Cornerstone is casual and yet formal, rockin’ and yet classical, old and new, ancient and future – Cornerstone, for those who have never experienced it, can be an enigma. It thrives on paradox and embraces the celebration of diversity. Now, on to the “History”!
Cornerstone United Methodist Church was launched by the Southwest District of The United Methodist Church in 1996. Rev. Roy M. Terry IV, his wife Leslie and their daughter Emily moved to Naples and immediately formed a launch team to help get Cornerstone off the ground. Cornerstone held its first worship service November 2, 1996 at Big Cypress Elementary School just off Golden Gate Blvd. The community gathered in the schools cafetorium (a shared space used by the school for their cafeteria and auditorium). Rev. Roy remembers that first Sunday as being exciting and anxious. “We had no idea who was going to show up!” People did show up and after that first service Cornerstone United Methodist Church was a worshiping community.
Between the years of 1998 and 1999 Cornerstone was able to purchase property for the church on Immokalee Road (our current location). By the grace of God, it just so happened that the new Gulf Coast High School was also being built right next to the church property. Cornerstone asked if they could move their worship services from Big Cypress to the new high school and the request was granted. Cornerstone began worshiping at Gulf Coast High school in 1998. The church gathered in the cafeteria and through the windows was able to look out over the property which would soon be their home.
While Cornerstone worshiped at Gulf Coast High School the church experienced a great deal of growth. Throughout this whole time, every week, the program ministries of the church were being held at other locations. Children’s ministries, Bible studies and choir rehearsals were held at Vineyards Community Park on Wednesday nights. Youth group was held at the church parsonage (the pastors home). The church basically lived out of a trailer and there was a beauty in the process of setting up and tearing down everywhere they went. Eventually, through the faithful support of the members at Cornerstone, and the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church, the community was able to break ground on their property.
The building process was relatively smooth and everyone was excited about the new worship facilities. The building project was completed in 2001 and the church moved in dramatic fashion from the high school to the new building. The service was one to remember! First, we began our worship together at the high school and then we processed together out the doors of the cafeteria and over to our new sanctuary. It was a glorious day!
Cornerstone now sits on 10 acres located at the entrance of the Ibis Cove community. Our worship facilities provide space for worship, children’s ministries, music events and concerts, Bible studies, meetings and fellowship gatherings. The large metal building (at the front of the property) came with property and is used to house our church offices, choir room, youth facilities, meeting space and Bible studies. There is not a space on the church property that is not used by someone during the week. Several times, throughout the year, Cornerstone opens their property to large community events and even shares parking arrangements with the residence of Ibis Cove and Gulf Coast High School. Cornerstone is known throughout the community for its radical hospitality!
While this history paints a portrait of the “where, when and how” of Cornerstone’s development the greatest part of our history together can be found through the testimony of God’s action and faithfulness! Cornerstone is a witness celebrating the diversity of God’s gifts and people. In no way would Cornerstone even exist if it were not for the work of the Holy Spirit and God’s hand upon this humble community. It is through the lives of the people and the movement of the Holy Spirit that make up the most exciting part of our history together. Passionate Worship, Professions of Faith, Baptism, Formation, Service, Radical Hospitality, Transformation, Extravagant Generosity and Authentic Community all make up the rich history of the people and community we call Cornerstone. The doors are open to all people and the motto has always been “Come As You Are!”