By Sam Jack
After many Sundays spent worshipping in their Family Life Center, Haysville United Methodist Church members returned to a newly remodeled sanctuary on Aug. 6.
The congregation abruptly found itself unable to use its sanctuary after a spring 2016 roof repair shook loose particles that turned out to be asbestos.
“The asbestos was in the original ceiling material when the building was built back in 1968,” said Leon Jelinek, president of Haysville UMC’s administrative council. “Once it started to flake, we had to move out.”
Church members decided to make lemonade out of lemons, rapidly putting together a plan to update the sanctuary after the asbestos was cleaned up.
“We sort of felt, ‘If we’re going to do it, this is the time,’” Jelinek said.
Jelinek and others on a sanctuary redesign committee settled on changes and upgrades that fell under four headings.
• Accessibility. Before the remodel, the chancel area was accessible only to those who could navigate two steps. The remodel makes it fully ADA compliant by adding a wheelchair ramp. The prayer rail, which had been up on the chancel platform, was moved so that it is on the same level as the pews.
“With a congregation that has a number of elderly members, we tried to make things as accessible for everyone as we could,” Jelinek said.
• Flexibility. Members now have a worship space that works for both traditional and contemporary styles of worship.
“The altar was fixed in place on the chancel stage, and it took up a lot of room that sometimes would have been better used for something else,” Jelinek said. “Now, if we need to move the altar forward or backward, we can do that. Or if it’s not needed or appropriate, it can be taken out fully.”
Brady Simmons, a Haysville police officer and member of the church, built the new altar by hand.
In another improvement to the flexibility of the chancel, the static choir loft space was removed, replaced by moveable risers and chairs to accommodate whatever number of singers.
The old, bright-red carpet has been replaced by carpet in a more neutral color, one less likely to clash with color schemes for weddings and seasonal services. The new carpet is laid out in a pattern of rectangular strips. Carpet tiles in high-traffic areas can easily be replaced.
• Convenience. Jelinek highlighted Haysville UMC’s new pulley system, which can be used to easily change banners that decorate the high front wall of the sanctuary. Craig Stranathan, a UMC member, designed the pulleys.
Moving instruments and adding wiring eases logistical challenges in the new sanctuary.
“Before, the piano and organ were at totally opposite sides of the sanctuary, so you’d have to go clear across the platform to get between the two. Now, we placed the piano and organ adjacent to each other,” Jelinek said.
“Another convenience we added is that all the sound and lighting is controlled from the audiovisual booth, so you don’t have to have people at one location doing lights, at another doing microphones, and so on.”
• Electronics. Two new, front-facing LCD projectors, plus one rear-facing projector, can be used to display lyrics, Bible verses, sermon illustrations and video clips. New spotlights roughly double the brightness in the chancel.
“We’ve also tried to improve the acoustics. With the new ceiling, we have a better reflective surface, but we also have a brand new speaker system, which seems at this point to be much better than the old system,” Jelinek said.
People are attached to the places they worship, Jelinek said, and the redesigners tried to be sensitive to that.
“We tried to keep enough of the old things so that there was some comfort in the heritage of it,” he said. “There’s still some of the brickwork on the walls. The pews are the same pews. It’s still our sanctuary.”