A Catalyst for Celebration

A church rich in history and service, 2017 was quite the year for celebration at Mt. Calvary United Church of Christ (MCUCC). Nestled less than a half-mile from North Carolina Central University, MCUCC is a safe space and beacon of hope for surrounding communities. The heart of Mt. Calvary UCC is family; just a small part of what makes MCUCC so unique is that it has been a generational mainstay for families in and around Durham for over 100 years.

From 1970 until his passing in 2013, Reverend Dr. Josiah Cecil Cheek, shepherded a 43-year development period, “On the Move for God,” which included building renovation and expansion, increased membership, student-exchange programs, leadership conferences, and fundraising efforts that afforded MCUCC the opportunity to increase various church programs and committees. After building a new sanctuary to accommodate a growing congregation, in 2001, the former sanctuary was renamed J.C. Cheek’s Education Building.

The J.C. Cheek’s Education building has made a significant impact to both MCUCC and the community. The building has housed a thriving after-school program, tutorial center, and basketball team that competes in local tournaments. For many children and young adults, the Cheek’s Building is a safe place—and sometimes the only place—to feel welcomed and loved.

In MCUCC’s quest to provide a foundational place of worship and safe space for area youth, they encountered many challenges along the way. A few years ago, after the passing of MCUCC’s beloved pastor, the structural wall of the J.C. Cheek’s Education building failed. Contractors discovered that the foundation’s damage was caused by the weight of over 15 feet of dirt in the building’s landscaping area. MCUCC moved all education programs into the main sanctuary of the church, resulting in an elimination of several church programs that no longer had the space to operate. During this transition, membership also decreased from 600 to just around 300 members.

Although the physical foundation of MCUCC was temporarily damaged, the church’s spiritual foundation could not be broken. With an existing mortgage of $480,000, over $60,000 in building repairs, and a church in search of its next leader, the MCUCC family and interim pastor persevered in carrying out the “On the Move” legacy of Rev. Dr. Cheek. Executing this mission meant securing financial assistance in order to accomplish several short and long-term goals.

MCUCC Chooses the Cornerstone Fund

Greg Clinton, who serves on the trustee board, has been in the business of automating churches and firms for many years. Clinton also has a vested familial interest in the success of Mt. Calvary UCC. “My father and brother have also served as board chairs and our family has 12 siblings that attend Mt. Calvary UCC. We all have a job to do and, especially for future generations, I am committed to leaving Mt. Calvary better off than I found it,” says Clinton.

Using prior professional experience, Clinton assisted the church’s finance department in evaluating the church’s existing and future financial needs. Through online research, Clinton discovered the Cornerstone Fund. Greg played an integral role in initiating communication with the Cornerstone Fund, processing the application, and documenting the process. In addition, Mr. Clinton and the interim pastor even encouraged the congregation to weigh in on the decision-making process—they wanted to keep the previous lender, but could not agree to higher interest rates. The old way was no longer beneficial to MCUCC.

Other lenders offered quality rates, but one special component was still missing. The Cornerstone Fund provided Mt. Calvary UCC with one quality that the other lenders did not offer—a personal relationship with the church—and that is why, ultimately, the congregation decided to proceed with the Cornerstone Fund.

Clinton emphasizes that throughout the three-year process, the Cornerstone Fund “made everyone feel comfortable” by revising parts of the loan and even sending representatives to Durham to assist in the process. “Family is important to us here, and the Cornerstone Fund representatives feel more like family than loan officers.”

Details of the Cornerstone Fund Loan and Utilization

In addition to establishing a personal relationship with the Cornerstone Fund, these financing options also made the loan worthwhile:

  • 30-year term and amortization mortgage loan;
  • 5-year adjustable rate that was very competitive;
  • Ability to refinance for $900,000, which will be used to pay off mortgage and make needed building improvements; and,
  • No pre-payment penalty.

Mr. Calvary UCC plans to utilize the funding in several ways. First, they plan use the loan for repairs to the J.C. Cheek’s Education Building. Completing construction will result in moving coveted education and community programs back into the designated building. It also means moving displaced board meetings and services for church members, such as funeral repasses, back into the church.

Closing the Deal

The Cornerstone Fund believes in investing from the heart to build for the future—a fitting slogan to complete the church’s goal of obtaining much-needed funding. Mt. Calvary UCC could not have asked for a better closing day, either. The congregation not only acknowledged closing on a loan that will positively impact their future, the church also celebrated its 124th anniversary. For the coming years, Mt. Calvary UCC has three primary goals: strengthen church programs; prepare the next generation; and fundraise enough to pay down the church’s debt. Greg Clinton is also hopeful that the Cornerstone Fund will be a source of funding for anticipated large-scale projects like an on-campus retirement home and family center. In 2017, Mt. Calvary UCC might have closed. But with vital funding, they have just opened the doors to a very bright future.