There are pews in the dining room. The pulpit rests in the TV’s alcove, and the cross hangs on the mantle above the fireplace. The church band plays in the living room, and in the kitchen, guests help themselves to baked goods laid out on the counter.
Mary Lou Cumbie’s house has been set up this way for more than a decade. Now, it feels strange to picture it looking any differently.
Many years ago, she said, members of the church used to help her set back up her living room after Sunday services. Over time it became easier to leave the house arranged for worship full time.
“In the beginning, we would move the altar out, move the pulpit out,” Cumbie said. “And finally we actually just quit doing that.”
The Cumbies’ home was never intended to be Lighthouse Pentecostal Ministries’ permanent home, said the church’s senior pastor, Tim Bailey. But it’s been a long journey getting to their own parcel of land, and Bailey said often the path was unclear.
They first began meeting in Mary Lou’s living room after leaving the Church of God in June, 2007 – feeling called to Pentecostal worship.
Now, the Cumbies’ insurance company has said the liability of hosting a church of 50 or so worshipers is too high for their current rates, so the congregation is having to make other plans.
“Thank our brother and sister as they opened up their house when God said for us to do this,” Bailey said before those gathered on their last Sunday in the house. “They said you can come and have church here until God makes provisions in another direction. And so we are at that place where provisions are being made for us to move to the next spot.”
There’s a structure up on the lot where the new church will be housed, but it’s been a lengthy process to get construction finished. The building has no interior walls and is acting as a warehouse for the time being, so the congregation will be meeting in a tent on the church’s grounds until the building is ready for them to move in.
Over the years, Bailey said it has sometimes been difficult to see God’s will for the church. Since the congregation has not wanted to take out loans and has relied only on donations, construction has been slow. But Bailey has never doubted that the Lord would provide.
“We’ve had highs and lows, but as a whole, the nucleus of this, we’ve stuck it out and we’re seeing God still work,” he said, getting emotional.
“And you know, the way that God has moved for us,” his wife, Wanda, continued. “When he does wonders, God does wonders, and it’s wonders that we really could not accomplish on our own.”
Mary Lou had never been quite sure why her husband and she had gone through the trouble of building such a large house, especially when it cost so much money. But she said she knows now that it was God’s will for her to have enough space to host the congregation.
“I literally wanted to get a double-wide trailer,” she said. “I had no desire to build a house... Then my husband called one day and asked if I had looked at the house plans, and I said no. And he said ‘there’s one in there that I picked out.’ And I thought he’s crazy, you know? But it’s like immediately, the Lord told me to go with what (my husband) said.”
“We never realized, building the house, that this was going to happen,” Cumbie continued. “But I realized then I felt God… Flesh and blood couldn’t have orchestrated this. It had to be God.”
She doesn’t know what to do with all the space now that Lighthouse, whose congregation has been meeting in her home for 14 years, is moving over to its new location.
“We moved in maybe the end of March in ‘07,” Cumbie said. “My plan had been, you know, we weren’t going to set anything up. I mean we had a couch, but I said I want to just be here a while and kind of get a feel for the house. Actually, somebody needed a couch, and we wound up just giving that couch away.”
As the congregation filed out of the Cumbies’ home, there was excited chatter about what was next for the Lighthouse Church, and the closing words of Bailey’s sermon lingered.
“When you step out in faith, do what God says to do, all you see is him moving. You haven’t seen the wonder yet, and you won’t unless you walk... Come next week, we’ll be down there and we’re going to watch God move again.”