A Christian pastor and his wife have been able to buy a £485,000 five-bedroom detached home with a self-contained annex after their congregation donated £66,000.
While most of the money donated – £55,000 – was offered by a few friends of the Stanfield family in the church, a further £11,000 was given anonymously by church goers.
This was in response to a letter in which certain members of Living Hope Church in Douglas in the Isle of Man were offered the opportunity to bless their pastor and his family if they so chose. Jonathan and Annette have pastored what became Living Hope from Port St Mary Baptist for the last 19 years, growing it in the last four years from a single congregation of 290 members to now five congregations across the Isle of Man, with average attendance of over 650 people.
Holly Cottage at Ballaughton Meadows was rented by Pastor Jonathan Stanfield and his wife Annette for two years. Due to on-going ministry requirements on Jonathan the church required a relocation to Douglas, so their previous house was sold in order to buy it but still needed £150,000 to make up the difference.
As the church did not have access to a manse or permanent venue in Douglas, having considered various potential options, Holly Cottage was identified as a suitable property for the family and for the regular church activities to be held in weekly, such as pastoral ministry, youth groups, life groups, leader's meetings, church hospitality and for hosting visitors from all round the world.
In the letter, Living Hope's Douglas church elders Chris Staples and Stuart Nelson quoted the Bible: "Whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
They wrote: "The Stanfield family love Holly Cottage, would like to be based there permanently, and have agreed terms to purchase (subject to finance) at a discounted price.
"Jonathan has a funding gap of circa £150,000 to purchase the property, and we would love to bless them, by raising as much of this as we can as a church family through gifts."
The elders also said that no one should feel compelled to donate saying "importantly we do not wish you to feel compelled to do so. This should be something that comes from the heart, as each decides".
They described the pastor and his wife as "models of hospitality and stewardship of the property for the church's growth, and God's glory".
Living Hope church, set up in 2008, runs the Alpha course and encourages members to tithe, or give 10 per cent of their income.
In a Facebook post quoted by the Examiner, Stanfield said he felt "humbled and utterly overwhelmed" that the money had been donated to help them buy Holly Cottage.
"It's going to be a wonderful base for our pastoral ministry in the heart of Douglas.
"It's a miracle, we just want to say a huge thank you to the anonymous individuals who have contributed towards this incredible personal gift of £66,000. This considerable generosity has made it possible for us to acquire this manse in which we will now be able to continue to offer the hospitality to which the Lord has called us."
Stanfield this week posted on Facebook: "But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity." Isaiah 32:8 NLT / Generosity is a way of life!