By Sarah Gooding
Members of the Haysville United Methodist Church know about the power of prayer, but also to be careful what they pray for.
Several months ago, the church’s roof began to leak, so members prayed for help finding the $75,000 necessary to replace it.
“Along came a hail storm that kicked an insurance policy into force that fully paid for new roofing,” said Leon Jelinek, who serves as administrative council and building committee chair for the congregation. “Prayers answered, right? Not quite.”
Jelinek said the replacement kicked off a chain of events first set in motion when the sanctuary was built in 1968.
“The force of the hammers the roofers used to nail down the new shingles inadvertently caused the ceiling plaster over the sanctuary underneath to start crumbling and flaking down on the church pews,” he said. “The ceiling plaster contained asbestos, which was common practice when the sanctuary was built in 1968.”
Authorities had told congregation members the asbestos would be harmless as long as it remained intact, but once the ceiling began crumbling and the asbestos became airborne, abatement became essential.
Problems and opportunities
“Abatement of the asbestos required removal of everything in the room – pews, organ, wall trim, ceiling fans, audio-visual equipment and everything else in the room,” Jelinek said. “But suddenly the church members realized that a totally empty sanctuary would provide an opportunity they had been talking about for several years.”
Changing worship traditions meant the 50-year-old sanctuary really was in need of updates, and the congregation seized the opportunity to rebuild the sanctuary accordingly.
“I am confident that what we first thought was a disaster, is actually an opportunity that comes to us with a divine nudge,” said Rev. Jennifer Whitt, the congregation’s pastor.
Previously, the choir loft and alter were permanently built in to the sanctuary layout, but these standing elements often prevented full use of the space.
“The new plan called for movable seating for the choir and optional locations for the altar, all dependent upon the emphasis of a particular worship service or program,” Jelinek said. “Flexibility was the catch phrase they used to determine what would be incorporated into the new layout.”
The updates also are addressing accessibility and aesthetics.
“Before, steps to the chancel were difficult for elderly and disabled individuals to use, a ramp, fully compliant with ADA requirements, was designed into the plan,” Jelinek said.
He said the room’s bright red accents also have been replaced with a new color scheme that might be more compatible with wedding or seasonal color accents. However, classical elements, including the sanctuary’s brick walls and wood stain, have been retained to ensure the sanctuary keeps a familiar feel.
The pendant lighting also will remain, but the renovation project has incorporated better lighting design and a new sound system, each designed to improve the experience of both those presenting and receiving the worship activity.
Planning for the future
As with many building projects, the renovations are taking longer than originally hoped. However, some of that is the result of researching various products and services thoroughly to ensure funds are spent wisely.
“We want to make sure that what we do serves the future generations for the next 50 years as well as the old served us these past 50,” said Ron Cain, chairman of the church’s board of trustees.
In the meantime, the congregation is waiting patiently and holding services in the church’s recently completed gym.
“We would love to have anyone join us for worship now and be a part of the assembly that dedicates the renovated sanctuary in a couple months,” Whitt said. “We have a traditional service Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. and a more informal, contemporary praise and worship service at 11 a.m.”
The church is located at 601 East Grand.