DeKALB – The leadership of First United Methodist Church in DeKalb says the dedication of a new church after nearly 20 years of planning, site finding, architectural drawings and fundraising has been a testament to the faith and generosity of the congregation.
Church leaders held a groundbreaking ceremony on July 24 to celebrate the start of construction with city officials, congregants and members of the public.
The new building has an expected price tag of $4.8 million, project officials said.
Reverend Senior Pastor Jonathan Crail said the congregation is excited about plans to construct a new church building on North Annie Glidden Road off Rosenow Way.
“We feel like we are breaking new ground in mission and ministry opportunities for our congregation,” Crail said. “It’s not just about building a new facility for the church, but it’s really a new opportunity to engage with the community, to be in a neighborhood that is revitalizing. So it’s not just about us and our congregation having a place to worship and doing our activities, it’s really about how can we be a blessing to DeKalb and the whole world.
At 12,366 square feet spanning over 15 acres, the new church building will have a sanctuary that can accommodate 240 people and another 130 in the overflow into the narthex.
John Ward, co-chairman of the church building coordination team, said the new church building will be on one level and easily accessible to all.
The congregation has a home at its current location at 317 N. Fourth Street where it has been since 1909, but church leaders had a building survey conducted nearly 20 years ago, to determine they would prefer a new location.
Crail said the study results showed structural and long-term maintenance issues at the Fourth Street building. This compounded by a desire to downsize led to the new location.
“As we know with single families as you get older you have to downsize,” Crail said. “The reality is that our congregation is not as big as it was 30 or 40 years ago. The current structure we have is really too big. There are a lot of hallways, stairs and empty spaces that are really not well used and yet we still have to pay for all the utilities and maintenance for those spaces that are not easily usable.
Crail said it would be much more cost effective to build a new church.
Plans to build the new house of worship in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood of the city will enable the church to carry out its mission for years to come.
The First United Methodist Church has a long history of worship and outreach to the DeKalb community.
Sherry Uhrich, co-chair of the church construction coordination team, said the new location is a win-win situation for the community and the church.
“Moving to the area we’re moving to is going to help us grow some of our outreach,” Uhrich said. “Actually, I’m also the Youth Missions Coordinator, and I take middle/high school kids out to do missionary work every year. So we hope to help do some outreach in the Edens Gardens area and around the high school to maybe bring more kids into our youth group and do some of these activities and also help us with missions and outreach.
But Uhrich said there was a time when members of the congregation did not financially believe the new building could be a reality. At the same time, she said church members were opposed to turning to a mortgage to fund construction.
“It was really an all or nothing,” she said. “If we hadn’t raised the funds, we would have had to delay construction until we could get those extra funds because everyone pretty much said, ‘no, no mortgage.’ It’s something we’re really proud of, we’re going to be able to do it then and pay cash for the build, we bought the 15 acres a few years ago so it was already done and paid for. , the land was there for us, available to us when we were ready to start construction.”
The plans for the new building had undergone some revisions to align the project costs with the church budget.
With the state of the economy, church leaders had to be aware of supply shortages when planning church construction, which Crail said was resolved over several weeks by choosing a contractor to begin work on adjusting plans and implementing cost reduction measures.
“It brought down the cost of the project, and then we went back to some of our major donors and said, ‘Here are the numbers, and here’s what we have, and here’s the gap.’ “Said Crail. “Amazingly, even though I thought we had exhausted our resources in our first campaign, again people really stepped up and said, ‘We want this to happen. money and cover that gap. So we were amazed by their generosity, by the generosity of the whole congregation.
Ward said the groundbreaking ceremony ultimately turned out to be a positive experience.
“In a crazy day in our history with all these things going on in our world – politically, economically, and wars and everything else – we [were] able to move forward and build us a new church,” Ward said.