Gone from tent to tent, and one tabernacle to another

~ 1Chronicles 17:5


Most rejected what they heard. But some believed. What began as a man preaching to his wife and five children (Susan, Terry, Danny, Sharon and Lori) in the living room grew into small regular meetings in a rotation of homes. Many of those early believers remain with us today including the Mills, Fales, Leavy and Wiley families. Two interesting conversions during this period took place in the lives of a pair of “wild and backslid” Amish men from the North. Tom Byler now pastors in Elkton, Kentucky along with his wife Donna, eldest of the Mill’s girls. The second young man, Bill Hershberger, claimed the Stemen’s oldest daughter Susan, for wife, and also ministers here at House of Fellowship and abroad.


1981 - Sunday after church singing at the Stemen home on Graber Ave.  Left to right: Earl Myers, Al Golden, Susan Stemen and John Fales



For a time the group settled into meeting regularly at a home in Siesta key, but neighbors were inconvenienced by the cars and noise. They then moved into the first rental location - a warehouse on Cattlemen Road in Sarasota that was home to a moving business. Every meeting was preceded by time spent clearing space amidst the clutter and setting up a pulpit and chairs. The music consisted of two guitars and a lots of heart. But within a year zoning issues forced another relocation, this time to the Mail Carriers Building, which smelled of smoke, had no heat and was shared with the association and had to be cleared, setup for services and then restored.

1985 - Letter Carrier Building.  Little blonde is Sister Lori Seay



1986 - Church group at Letter Carrier Building



1987 - Lunch after Sunday service at the home of Tom Byler.



Eventually a more convenient and comfortable location was found, this time a storefront on 3rd Street (today’s Fruitville Rd). For the first time, they had the luxury of space consecrated to worship, alone. It was here that Bro. Danny Stemen and Bro. Bill Hershberger began to minister the Word of God along with Bro. John. This building was also the historic site of Bro. Bill’s one and only song special. As he began to ‘sound forth’, a street person attempted to break into a small area in the rear where ministers prepared for service. At the sound of mischief the men all thankfully emptied out of the sanctuary to see what was going on, leaving a few polite women and children to clap at the finish.


1988 - Just outside the church at Fruitville. Gary Golden, Steve Propalis, Pat Ethington


1989 - Fruitville.  Sis. Evis teaches the kids a new song. Sis. Lori is in the front row, Sis. Sharon is in the back.


1989 - Fruitville. Sis. Susan at the organ, Bro. Terry at the front row. Bro. Arsene gives Bro. Ron Nardone a hug and Sis. Nancy front-left.



Something that stands out about the 1980‘s is the number of people who received the Word with joy, witnessed to others far and wide and then fell away. There was the greatest number of baptisms and yet, few who took the Name of Jesus then stand firm today. Those who do remain fondly remember those years as a time when many gathered nightly at the Stemen’s home. It was a place of fellowship, exhortation and music where the Spirit of Christ set an atmosphere that constantly drew men and women to “come and see”. In 1989 the church was fittingly incorporated as “House of Fellowship of Believers.”

Around 1990, a faithful group of about forty moved into the fourth rental, this time a space of about 1500sf in a small strip center located on Palmer Road, an area of commercial and light industrial buildings. Here, a raised platform was constructed across the width of open space dedicated as a sanctuary. It was large enough to hold the pulpit plus piano, organ, guitar and bass guitar as God supplied instruments and musicians. Bro. Terry Stemen manned an open booth controlling the sound system and providing recording and duplication services. Books and tapes from Spoken Word Publications were displayed on shelves in the vestibule and made freely available to all in accordance to Bro. John’s determination to feed the sheep of God.


1992 - Bro. Danny leads songs at the Palmer Road building.


1992 - Bro. John preaching to his congregation.


1996 - Church at Palmer Road.



There had been ongoing support for various ministries in the US, Canada and overseas, but the tenure at Palmer Road saw the beginning of active participation in local and foreign mission fields by all three ministers. When going abroad they were typically accompanied by local believers or men from other American assemblies. Some of the countries visited include Guyana, Venezuela, South Africa, India, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and the Philippine Islands. As of this writing, it remains our great joy to exchange visitations with the world-wide Bride of Jesus Christ!


1998 - Sis. Polly and Bro. Ben Stemen at Bro. John and Sis. Diana's home on Graber Avenue.


While not to be documented in detail, it is important to add that throughout the years of changing locations, storms and battles continued, but never prevailed. The enemy brought waves of false doctrine, family challenges and made continual effort to bring worldliness and a lukewarm spirit into the midst. But the Word of God was preached without compromise or apology for where it might cut. And, as the stand of individuals drew others souls to Christ, the flock grew until no shifting of walls or chairs could contain the group of over ninety plus a continual stream of visitors.

And so, in 2003, House of Fellowship settled into yet another storefront, this time in Northgate Plaza, a mid-size commercial strip center at the northern edge of Sarasota county.


2008 - House Of Fellowship gathers in front of Northgate building.


Utilized previously by another church, this location offered 2800 s.f. comprising vestibule, sanctuary, minister’s study, Sunday school and cry rooms (plus much welcomed multi-stall restrooms). Due to the type of businesses contained in the rest of the strip, the large parking lot was freely available on Sundays, plus there was covered space outside for fellowshipping after service. It was a glorious relief for about five years.


2008 - House Of Fellowship song service at Northgate building.
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