It was built in the 1880s, and Grace Dew recalls that she got to the white frame church by riding through the woods in a wagon pulled by ponies.
Today, the church is the only remaining public landmark of the town of Pasadena, located south of Dade City. The building was used as a polling place for more than 100 years, from 1888 to March 1988.
Following the great freeze of 1895 and the burning of the luxury Lakeview Highlands Hotel in 1899, the bustling community of Pasadena would be no more.
Dew says that after the freeze, many of the wealthy grove owners moved to the north, settling in an area that would become Dade City.
Mrs. Dew is now 94 and still lives near the old church building, residing atop LeHeup Hill on Fort King Road, one of the highest points in Pasco County.
The little church would again enter her life in 1932. She was a member of the Fort King Homemakers Club when it purchased the empty building for $200. For years, the club used it as a meeting place until the upkeep proved too much.
In subsequent years, various churches would call it home and then move on to larger, more modern facilities. Through it all, the building would look much the same on the outside, while inside things were deteriorating.
Help arrived in 1989 when the church was purchased by Living in Faith Fellowship. The fellowship's pastor, the Rev. June S. Reinke, says she finds it interesting that out of all the Pasadena landmarks, God would preserve this building.
At the time of the sale, the church was in very poor condition. And it was winter.
Reinke, 48, recalls that the building was heated by three kerosene heaters. All were leaking, and kerosene was visible on the floors. They got rid of them and held their first service without heat in January 1989.
"We were freezing," says Reinke. "I handed out blankets at the service."
The church was without heating or cooling until money could be raised.
Part of Reinke's philosophy is, "If you don't have the money, don't spend it. And don't spend other people's money."
Since childhood, she has seen ministers come and go, often leaving a church in debt.
She says, "Everything we have done is done as we can afford it."
Central heat and air were the first big expense. After that, everyone pitched in to repair holes in the floors and walls. While Reinke's dad, James Sheltrown, worked on one set of problems, her mom, Ruth, was painting, perched atop a two-story scaffolding with a ladder on top of that. Her mother was 68 at the time.
The floors were covered with carpet, but not ritzy carpet, Reinke says. Walls were textured to cover flaws. The church's outstanding feature, a huge stained glass window, had broken glass and the lead was coming apart. Victor from Kaleidoscope Glass Works in Land O'Lakes got it in shape.
In the midst of repairs, on a day when Reinke found herself stressed and feeling that no one cared, she heard a voice, and the Rev. Dennis Murphy from St. Anthony of Padua Church walked through the open church door.
"He came in and talked with me," says Reinke.
Murphy told Reinke that he arrived as a stranger and left as a friend. A few days later he would come back and minister to her small flock. He also put her in touch with his sister church in New Port Richey. They no longer needed their old church pews. The pews got a new home. Murphy died in December 1995.
It is fitting that Reinke describes her ministry as "one of restoration."
"The church kind of depicts my ministry," she says. "People often need to be restored. Marriages need to be restored. Relations need to be restored. We have a society of hurting people, and we need to reach out. People need to be helped. Christ would not just preach to the multitudes, but would also minister to one person."
Reinke says her philosophy is to identify with people.
"We don't wear suits to church; we are fairly laid back. I am not sitting on a pedestal. I want to talk with them, I want to walk with them with God and then let go of their hands."
Reinke has earned her doctorate in ministry. She attended Central Michigan University and John Wesley College, Berean School for the Bible and Tyndale Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. She has worked in the secular world of counseling but prefers working for God. Both her grandfather and grandmother were ordained ministers.
Two significant things have tested her faith. She lost her sister, whom she called her good friend and with whom she shared a radio ministry. And her husband had a stroke, which has left him partially disabled.
After her sister died, Reinke told her minister she would never preach again. He urged her not to make that decision then. When her husband had his stroke, the same minister came by. Reinke left the hospital with Fred in intensive care and went back to the pulpit.
"One thing I can teach people," says Reinke, "is that God gives you the strength to get through everything. I could have not made it through on my own."
She says, "Faith is something that we do not see in the natural, we only see in our heart. Faith is the belief in the things we cannot taste, feel, touch or experience."
She takes her ministry seriously and invites others to do the same.
"If people are tired of being entertained or of having a program and want to hear the word of God, come to Fellowship. If you want old-fashioned hymns, with maybe a few contemporary songs, come to Fellowship. If you want a band and dancing, don't come here," Reinke says. "A lot of the time we try to make the scriptures fit our lifestyle rather than our life fit the scriptures. I do stick to the Bible."
Sunday services include Sunday school at 10 a.m. and worship at 10:45. The church is at 36134 Clinton Ave.
_ Information from the book The Historic Places of Pasco County was used in writing this story.
Home since 1989 to the Living in Faith Fellowship, this building has housed other congregations and a homemakers club during its 100-plus years.
The Rev. June S. Reinke delivers a recent sermon at Living in Faith Fellowship in Pasadena. "If you want old-fashioned hymns, with maybe a few contemporary songs, come to Fellowship," Reinke says. "If you want a band and dancing, don't come here. . . . I do stick to the Bible."
Reinke, pastor of Living Faith Fellowship, stands among pews donated by another church, in front of a restored stained glass window that was falling apart when the building was acquired. Restoration was done on a pay-as-you-go basis with mostly donated labor.