1999 :: Cornerstone came to life in 1999 when Rusty Hutson and his family moved to Auburn to plant a church for the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. The first meeting was held at the Auburn Wesley Foundation with a small group of 35 who learned that the church would be named Cornerstone United Methodist Church. They began with weekly Wednesday night meetings to plan, pray and grasp God’s vision for the new church.
2000 :: The core group worked hard planning and praying. On January 9, 2000, Cornerstone held its Launch Service at Lambert’s Skate Center in Auburn with 225 people in attendance. The first service beneath the now-famed disco ball included Cornerstone’s signature smiling greeters, nursery and children’s workers, setup crews and a worship team to lead the services.
2001- 2002 :: With the life of Cornerstone quickly progressing, the Alabama-West Florida Conference purchased 20 acres of land along Hamilton Road that the church now calls home. Cornerstone shortly received its charter during a special service in January, 2001.
The members and everyone who regularly attended this new and fast-growing church were dedicated to creating a welcoming environment where all who came would be recognized and accepted as the unique people God created. Cornerstone Café, with sausage biscuits, pastries and great coffee, played a central role in that vision. Distinct family-friendly events were planned, always a bit different, such as an evening Vacation Bible School held in an open arena and Trunk or Treat in the Fall for kids of all ages.
To help create a greater sense of community as the Sunday worship crowds grew, Cornerstone Community Groups were launched to allow people to gather in family homes to get to know each other as they learned more about Christ together. These groups and the Life Development Institute continued to provide the backbone of Cornerstone’s spiritual growth opportunities.
2003 :: By 2003, and with attendance at worship services held in the Skate Center growing to an average 220, a Building Committee was tapped to weigh the options for building at the Hamilton Road property. Through a series of town hall meetings, everyone learned that the church’s future home would be a guest-friendly, all-purpose facility focused on children, youth and worship. The Building Campaign was launched in May, 2004, as attendance under the disco ball soared to 400.
2004 :: News of the December, 2004, groundbreaking for the new church home came quickly and was openly received. A building fund was created, and by October 31, some $1.2 million was committed by Cornerstone members and attenders to make the building a reality.
Life at Cornerstone continued to pick up pace with the church offerings expanding to include the Free Friday Night Flicks movie series, Camp Cornerstone, a mission trip to Quito, Ecuador, the Maximum Impact Simulcast for community leaders and a growing youth and Community Group program. Attendance continued to climb.
2005 :: The new state-of-the-art facility opened its doors on Sunday, December 4, 2005, to a huge crowd. The day began with a farewell service at the Skate Center, followed by a caravan of cars, led by police escort, to the new church. That first worship service featured a new, larger disco ball, much to the pleasure of the crowd. The children’s area, known as Kidztown wowed everyone touring the building.
2006-2007 :: Since that opening day in December, 2005, attendance continued to climb steadily to an average near 750 and occasional days of 1,100 plus. In January, 2006, the church expanded Sunday morning worship to two services at 9 and 11 am with Kidztown worship under way at the same times. By this time, the church staff had grown to 13.
Also growing continuously were the program offerings to members and attenders. What was once a program of Community Groups emerged as the Small Group Ministry to include community groups, study groups, service groups, prayer groups and fellowship groups, with enrollment above 360 participants. The youth program grew to some 50 youth who also gathered for small group study and evangelism projects on a weekly basis. Kidztown attendance topped 200 children each week.
2008-2009 :: Cornerstone was embracing the challenges of continued growth under the guidance of a Vision Team formed to determine how to best meet the needs of the varied people who attend our church. Areas being addressed by the Vision Team included program development, building plans and staffing needs.
As we looked ahead to the future of Cornerstone Church, 2009-2010 had already brought welcomed new challenges that faced the church with a slowing economy, while maintaining growth in numbers and maturity. In early 2009 we launched a new website platform that would become the basis for a growing presence and dedication to the online community, as well as our current members.
2010 :: In light of our continued growth and need for expansion, in the Fall of 2010 our Executive Team approved the formation of a Building Team. Their task was to explore the type and cost of a new facility that would allow us to continue to grow and accomplish the mission of leading people to know and serve Jesus.
2011 :: In early 2011 our Building Team determined it was not feasible nor good stewardship for our church to spend 8-10 million dollars on a building. So, the team began to explore another option of growing off-site. This idea resonated with our leadership and congregation, so we made the decision to become a multi-site church.
We hired a consultant to help us create a plan for becoming a multi-site church. At the same time, we began planning for a capital campaign to be held in the Fall that would fund the startup of the new site, eliminate our current debt and allow some enhancements of our current facility.
The campaign, called the Exponential Project, ran from the beginning of September thru the first part of October. We raised $1.6 million. Simultaneously, we were gathering and developing our Lee-Scott launch team, preparing for the opening of our new site in February of 2012.
2012 :: On February 5, 2012, we launched our new site at Lee-Scott Academy in Auburn. There are over 175 adults and 86 children who have left the Hamilton Road location to become pioneers and servants to another part of our community. This is the first big step in reaching a group of over 100,000 people in our county who are disconnected from God and the church. The Children’s Ministry at Lee-Scott includes the DNA of our current children’s programming at Hamilton Road. Click here to see Josh Agerton describe a Sunday morning at the Lee-Scott site. Click here to see facts and figures showing what was accomplished in 2012.
As a result of the Exponential Project, the Cornerstone Kids area at Hamilton Road was able to undergo some much needed renovation. As a result, “Kidztown” and “Seaside” became “Rock City” and “Pebble Path.” The Hamilton Road lobby area also received new paint and updating.
Cornerstone Missions in 2012 included partnering with the East Alabama Food Bank by preparing for Food Stock 2013 by collecting food items throughout December. We also began delving deeper into preparing the Cornerstone family for ways they could be involved in Foster Care in Lee County via our Foster Care Ministry. And our relationship with Uganda continued to grow as we sent five mission teams to Uganda.
2013 :: Since the opening of the Lee-Scott site, attendance averages 200 on a Sunday morning, including kids. On Sunday, March 3, Cornerstone’s third site was launched as 34 kids, teenagers and adults, gathered upstairs at the Bred Pub in Opelika, led by Site Pastor Brian Johnson, to worship Jesus and to begin the conversation of how we will live out the gospel together in Opelika community, serving together throughout the week in very tangible ways (such as the Community Gardens), gathering in each other’s homes, and celebrating on Sunday mornings as well. With the news of Brian Johnson’s family’s transition to Kansas City, Kansas, over the next few months, the leadership of Cornerstone began to pray about what was next for the Bred Pub site. Through this process we discerned the Spirit leading us to see an ending of the corporate gathering that happens at the Bred Pub on Sundays. To read more about this transition, go here.
On January 24 and 25, 2013, we had a “Celebration Dinner” to celebrate all that had been accomplished at Cornerstone during 2012. As part of the Celebration, “Dream 2020” was unveiled. We spent the next 12 months dreaming about the future of our church and our community and exponentially leading more people to know and serve Jesus. Cornerstone celebrated Baptism in a new way in 2013 with two Baptism Celebrations, one at the Hamilton Road site and one at the Lee-Scott site, which included fellowship, music, and worship. In August, Cornerstone began a worship service at 8 am at Hamilton Road, making for three worship services on Sunday mornings at that site.
Cornerstone Missions in 2013 began with Food Stock 2013 – “The Big Sort” – which was held to stock the shelves of the East Alabama Food Bank (over 31,000 pounds of food was collected, sorted and delivered to the Food Bank). Mission opportunities also included Big House “Kids’ Night Outs”, trips to Uganda, Auburn/Opelika Community Gardens, and Cornerstone families caring for foster children. In December, we also began collecting food items in preparation for Food Stock 2014. Click here to see facts and figures showing what was accomplished in 2013.
2014 :: All three of our sites continue to grow numerically and spiritually. So far 2014 has seen the culmination of Food Stock 2014 – “The Big Sort” – as well as results of Dream 2020. One result is the “Equip” sessions. The first sessions, “Equip: Parents“, were held in January. “Equip: Reading Your Bible” was held in April and May. Look for more Equip sessions coming soon.
Celebration Dinner was held on February 13 to celebrate all that had happened in 2013. The dreams collected from Dream2020 were sorted and looked at and revealed during the dinner. Click here to see facts and figures showing what was accomplished in 2013.
We anticipate another fantastic year filled with at least seven Uganda mission trips, more stocking the shelves of the East Alabama Food Bank, and fulfilling more dreams.