By Mallory Sherwood, Staff Writer
Children with toy spades and shovels broke ground Oct. 24 at University Church of Christ to celebrate the beginning of a $4 million renovation and new activity center project expected to be completed by December 2005.
The ceremony was simple and focused on the children because the project is intended for them, said Dr. Charles Marler, head of the elders at University Church and professor of journalism and mass communication. He also said senior members of the church who had been members since the old church building was built 50 years ago were honored.
Church secretary Gail Crane said the church, located on East North 16th Street, has 1,077 members.
“It has definitely grown in the last five years,” said Crane. “We went from about 600 members in 1998 to where we are now in 2004.”
This increase has led to a need for more space, said Ron Smith, deacon of the church and coordinator of the project.
“This congregation feels that it is our turn to do something for the future instead of being the future,” Smith said.
The new building will be located across from the old church building on East North 15th Street and will include kitchen facilities, an athletic area equipped with showers and a locker room, a work-out room and a place to walk indoors. A large multi-purpose room where weddings, receptions and church-wide functions can be conducted will also be added.
In addition to the new building, the church will install an elevator in the old church building, add four large adult classrooms, design a new entrance on the southwest side facing East North 15th Street, landscape the parking lots between buildings and add sidewalks, Marler said.
“It is very expected today for congregations to have something for the young people and for churchwide meetings,” Marler said. “We just didn’t have that and felt it was time to help the next generation of the church.”
The church was built in 1952 and has not been renovated since, he said.
“The generation that built the church 50 years ago was the parents of our senior members now,” Marler said. “Now their children had an obligation to leave something for the future of the church and its ministries like the 1952 congregation did.”
Sunday marked the beginning of the project with the actual moving of dirt, starting the project in a big way, Smith said.
“We were originally going to add on to our building 10 years ago,” Smith said. “It was similar in concept to what we are starting now, but much smaller. It wasn’t good timing because the economy was not great at the time.”
The congregation has collected almost all of the money needed to complete the project.
“The elders are extremely appreciative and in awe of the congregation and their response,” Marler said. “In addition to the $3.2 million raised this past year, the congregation has also given more than $1 million in regular contributions as well as $100,000 in special contributions.
“It is testimony that the group is very sacrificial, concerned and committed to its ministries. The have been servants with the money God has put into their hand to manage.”