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Celebrating 60 years

Cape Coral First United Methodist Church finalizing plans for diamond anniversary

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | May 27, 2022

Cape Coral First United Methodist Church in December 1972, not long after the building opened. BREEZE FILE PHOTO

A church that will be celebrating its 60th anniversary later this year is seeing the number of members attending in-person services climbing, as well as a new demographic of people.

Senior Pastor Rinaldo (Rini) Hernandez joined Cape Coral First United Methodist Church 23 months ago.

“In our denomination, we are sent by the bishop to serve in churches,” he said. “I was the regional supervisor in the Southwest Florida area, from Bradenton to Marco Island. I did that for eight years.”

When he was asked to come and serve at Cape Coral First United Methodist Church, he was excited, as he had preached here before and the leadership knew him.

“I was living in Sarasota for eight years and then I came to Cape Coral and I love it here,” Hernandez said.

He joined the church during the pandemic, which was very challenging, as many people were not attending in person, but rather online.

“I am still getting to know people just because they were not coming. They were afraid of COVID. It has been a long process of getting to know the congregation and really having a sense of what this congregation is and how big it is,” Hernandez said.

Now the majority of people are coming back with approximately 80 people still watching services online. Prior to COVID there were approximately 450 members attending, with this season around 350.

“Considering the numbers we were having a year ago, we are doing much better now,” he said.

About a year ago, with the demographics of Cape Coral changing, the church began welcoming a number of Hispanic members. To accommodate the new members they began a Spanish Sunday school class a month ago, which has an attendance of 25 people.

“I am originally from Cuba. My first language is Spanish. There is a lot of conversation in English and Spanish floating around the room after service. We are trying to provide the needs for immigrants, Spanish speaking immigrants in the community,” Hernandez said. “That is a new development in the last year or so.”

The congregation was launched with 113 members on Oct. 21, 1962, the day it was chartered with Pastor Dr. Royal Page. The first building came to be in January 1963. With more than 1,000 members, they built what is today their sanctuary, which was inaugurated on June 25, 1972.

“This church grew tremendously,” Hernandez said. “At some point we had more than 2,000 members. The church had drawn a lot of people.”

A 60th anniversary celebration will be held Sunday, Oct. 23. Although the details are still being finalized, Hernandez said they will invite all former pastors who are alive and some of the Florida Methodist church leaders.

Almost 60 years later, he said they are still here and very committed to the community.

“We participate in different programs to connect with the community and to provide for the needs of the community,” he said.

The church works very closely with the Cape Coral Caring Center, providing food donations and funds raised through the annual car show.

“For the past two years we have been raising $45,000. In six years we have contributed over $200,000 to the Cape Coral Caring Center. That is primarily for food for the poor and clothes and some basic things. We have a lot of sponsors here in the community, companies and people who attend. They pay the fee and buy food. Every penny is dedicated to the Cape Coral Caring Center. This church has been very committed to be involved in the needs of this community and show our Christian commitment just by taking care of people in need,” Hernandez said.

In 2011, Cape Coral First Methodist Church began offering school for Pre-K youngsters after they decided to turn the gym into a school. Currently there are 120 students enrolled with a waiting list of parents who would like their kiddos to attend.

For more information about the church or its programs, please visit www.capecoralfirst.org, or call 239-542-4051.