When a local Episcopalian church lost its home after it was victimized in a Ponzi scheme, another congregation welcomed it with open arms.
The Sylvan Lake Lutheran Church at 2399 Figa Avenue in West Bloomfield Township is sharing its space with the Advent Episcopal Church, with Lutheran services being held on Sundays at 9 a.m. followed by the Episcopalian service at 11 a.m.
“The people are extraordinary,” said Advent Episcopal Church Pastor Manisha Dostert. “It was like losing your home and they understood that. They said, ‘We don’t have much, but we’d love to share.’”
Pastor Mary Duerksen of Sylvan Lake Lutheran Church said the partnership has been great for both churches in making good use of their resources and reach out to different segments of the community.
Advent’s previous home was at 3325 Middlebelt Road in West Bloomfield, where its congregation had been worshiping for over 50 years.
However, after an expansion of the building in 2004, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission found in 2005 that the owners of Alanar, which provided the bonds and loans to Advent for the expansion, had been running a Ponzi scheme out of Sullivan, Ind., taking $6 million from churches.
Vaughn Reeves, Sr. was eventually found guilty on nine counts of securities fraud and was sentenced to 54 years in prison in December 2010; his three sons later agreed to plea deals.
But the revelation created a disruption in the Advent Episcopal Church’s bond payments and the combination of the economic recession and the struggles of Chrysler and General Motors also served as a blow to the health of the church.
Advent Episcopal Church previously issued around $900,000 in bonds and borrowed another $600,000 for the expansion project.
Knowing that it could not pay off the debt after being served a notice in October 2010, the church started searching for a new home.
Duerksen joined Sylvan Lake Lutheran Church in November 2011, while Dostert joined Advent Episcopal Church in February.
A partnership eventually started to form.
“It’s a long process. We decided we’re just going to trust God with this and I think that’s the best thing we did,” Dostert said.
After holding its final service at its building on Sept. 23, Advent Episcopal Church then made the move to Sylvan Lake Lutheran Church’s building.
Advent’s building is now close to being sold to a Hindu temple, according to Dostert, who said that while her congregation was thrown a curveball, it managed to hit it.
“We know deep down as humans and as Christians that spaces are not as important as people,” Dostert said.