Burkheimer retires from Community Church
The decision to give one’s life to serve others cannot be made lightly. It involves thinking little of one’s own desires and focuses mostly on the needs of others. For one local pastor this has been the case for over 50 years. The Rev. David Burkheimer has been the senior pastor for Community Church in Orange for 32 of those years. Under his shepherding the church has experienced tremendous growth during some of the most difficult times Orange has seen.
Burkheimer recently decided to retire from the position. “It’s not really retirement,” Burkheimer explains, “it’s more like a transition. I will still be very involved and most likely in the pulpit from time to time.” He smiles, knowing that pastors cannot ever actually retire. A calling to serve is a life style.
Born in Battle Creek, Mich., he graduated high school and continued to Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo. There he met his wife Melba, from Texas City. By 1958 they were both ordained ministers with the Assemblies of God, married and pastoring a church in Mission.
In 1961 they held a pastorate in Comfort and Rosenberg, both in Texas. They also did two years of missions ministry in Portugal.
The Burkheimers moved to Orange in 1979. “When we first moved here the church ran solid around 200 members.”
Community Church originally started on Border Street with a stint on 3rd Street. When the Burkheimers arrived, the church was located on 16th Street. The church began to grow rapidly.
“We were just a perfect fit. Seems like we just became the place to go [to church]. The late 70s and early 80s was a time when people began to take a closer look at spiritual things, reading Christian books and looking at their lives,” said Burkheimer. He had his finger on the pulse of the Christian community, and made sure there was a solid Biblical foundation for new members.
As the membership grew, so did the need for room. “For years we just grew like mad. Almost like there was nothing we could do wrong.” With growth there came new issues. They added on and added service times, but were still too crowded to work at their current facility.
They went before the city council to get permission to build, having three lots where they were. “We had over 500 people at that meeting, but they still told us no,” explains Burkheimer. “They actually did us a favor; though we didn’t like it at the time,” he laughs.
That meant a new facility on new property. Today, that facility exists on Martin Luther King Jr. and Interstate-10. Housed is not only their Sunday morning services, but a multitude of weekly programs, as well as a fully accredited private school kindergarten-12th and a day care.
The former facility operates as their youth building. “We have close to 250 teenagers there Wednesday nights. They are not all members of our church, but they are all committed to being there and belong there. It’s the place to be.”
The move to a larger custom built facility led to more growth. For years the congregation could boast a population into the thousands. Just as Orange County took a hit in population after Hurricanes Rita and Ike, so did Community. “Today I would say we have about 900 active members. But they are active. It takes three months of classes to complete membership.”
Walking into the building, the first thing you see is a banner of welcome. “Bringing the goodness of God to Our Community and Beyond,” is their mission statement in short. As a congregation they are active members in their community. “$300,000 goes out annually to missions. After Hurricane Ike, our members helped rebuild 95 homes. That was after they spent their time working on their homes or after their jobs, they went out and worked more. We took $100,000 in funds and divided it up among those with needs. Orange has been very good to us all these years. We have so many members that are ordained ministers that are also teachers, or employees somewhere else, that ministry isn’t their career. This is just a great church made of great people.”
Though there are associate pastors or employees, Burkheimer has interacted with each member for the past 32 years. It has been a good journey but not without loss. After performing an average of 20 funerals a year and a multitude of weddings, in December of 2004, after 46 years of marriage, his wife Melba passed away.
“I’ve enjoyed Orange in every way and the open arms we have received here,” said Burkheimer. He has too much history to feed a short essay. There are stories about the school, the day care, and various moves of the spirit, including healings and miracles that have been documented. “Its really happening, we are trying to build a culture of revival. There have been healings of the blind, cancers healed, diabetes, Parkinson’s, so many healings.”
“Our church is loving, forgiving and accepting. It is one of our greatest strengths. There are no ethnic, cultural or financial lines in our body.” This is a reflection of Burkheimer, of the teachings of God, the Gospel he has preached for 50 plus years. He is living proof that Biblical principals work.
A lifetime of service has earned the ability to have some choices. But his mind will never be far from the work of the Lord that is going on at the church that bears his fingerprints.
As for the future of the church, Burkheimer expects services will become a little more contemporary.
“For the first time it’s cool to worship God,” said Burkheimer. “Community deserves a younger pastor.” He assures he is not retiring. “I just won’t be getting paid,” he laughs. “I will probably be doing more hands-on missions. This is my home. Of course, if I was supposed to leave I would.” Current associate pastor, Daniel Rose is the most likely choice for replacement. As of press time that decision has not been released.
Burkheimer will enjoy spending more time with his two daughters and his grandchildren. He has also remarried and will spend time doing things he has waited to do.