Final Post: Remodel Plans
The Good Samaritan VINCENT VAN GOGH
I initiated this blog in an attempt to address matters documented herein. It served its purpose. I have removed the posts. I intend this to be my last post.
We had a Church Conference last Sunday, December 9. These are the circumstances leading to that meeting.
Proposed Sale of a Portion of Church Property for a Cell Phone Tower
Church members received a letter from the local United Methodist Church, dated November 27, 2012, which notified us that:
There will be a church conference on Sunday, December 9 at 11:30 AM in Fellowship Hall to consider a one item agenda; (sic) the proposed sale of the lot on the northwest corner of the church property. All members are invited to attend and participate in the decision.
City’s Certified Letter to Neighbors of the Church concerning Sale of Church Property
On Saturday, December 8, 2012, I and other neighbors to the church received a certified letter from the City Planning Administrator entitled:“Notice of Special Meeting and Public Hearing.”
It notified the recipients that the Planning Commission of the City would hold a special meeting and public hearing on December 18, 2012, at which the following would be heard:
Application by First United Methodist Church, owner, and NE Colorado cellular Inc.…, purchaser, for a conditional use permit to build a 80 foot antenna support structure (tower) and telecommunications facility to be located at 1716 W. E St. The property is located in an R-1 Dwelling District …
At the public hearings the Planning Commission and City Council will consider the conditional use application. All interested persons are invited to attend or submit written comment.
Church Conference Unanimously Rejects Leadership’s Proposal for Sale
At the Church Conference December 9, 2012, no one spoke in favor of the proposal, but several spoke in opposition, including persons that were concerned that the neighbors were not consulted, and that they could not support the proposal because they would not want to go out their front door to see a cell phone tower, and neither could they impose that on a neighbor to the church. The proposal was unanimously rejected.
Specific Plans to Remodel
The church leadership has scheduled two more church conferences, the first this Sunday, and the second this Tuesday. I understand that will be concerning remodeling plans. To my knowledge, the church leadership has not yet seen fit to inform the entire congregation of its plans, although a few have received the following letter, describing that plan and its costs in great detail:
First United Methodist Church
North Platte, Nebraska
First United Methodist Church made a bold move in 1960 when we relocated from our downtown location to our present location on W. E St. The people at First United Methodist Church had vision for reaching the neighborhoods of southwest North Platte with the good news of Jesus’ amazing love.
The first building on the new site included a fellowship hall, offices, kitchen, small chapel, and a few Sunday school rooms. Following more than 13 years of worship in fellowship hall, the congregation built a sanctuary in 1973. In 1986 the education space was expanded with the construction of a new addition.
Our facility has served us well. However, the age of the facilities, changing face of ministry and mission, and lack of any major remodeling has left us facing several rather significant needs. In response to those needs, our church conference elected a remodeling team in 2011 with the purpose of recommending a plan for remodeling the sanctuary and surrounding areas. The remodeling team worked for almost a year before bringing a recommendation to our Board of Trustees and Church Council. In October of this year, these leaders approved the recommendation of the remodeling team. The church council has also recommended engaging in a capital campaign to determine the financial feasibility of the project.
The Remodeling Team identified the following challenges. The heating and cooling system for the sanctuary needs to be replaced. Because these systems have not worked well for several years, the pews in the sanctuary have incurred significant damage to the finish. It is less expensive to replace rather than repair the seating so the current seating needs to be replaced. The floor covering is 40 years old and badly worn. We have attempted to address the inadequate lighting in the sanctuary, but the current lighting is not serving us well.
The sound system is failing quickly. We have not been able to accommodate requests to use projectors and screens for worship, funerals, and weddings. The recommendation is to install a new sound system and screens. Because of the slope of the floor, the sanctuary is not very accessible. The recommendation is to level the floor in the sanctuary and raise the height of the Chancel. We have received several comments that people sitting in the back one third of the sanctuary cannot see.
Another challenge is that the narrow doorway at the back of the sanctuary restricts the flow of people in and out of worship. The recommendation is to widen the main entrance into the sanctuary. We will also move the sound booth to an upper level so it does not take seating space or interfere with the flow of people.
The current foyer is too small to encourage fellowship and conversation either before or after worship, especially for weddings and funerals. The foyer will be expanded with small additions constructed on the north and west sides of the sanctuary. In addition, the East wall of the parlor will be opened up to be part of the foyer/gathering area.
We have also faced the challenge of the inadequate seating capacity during Sunday worship as well as for funerals and weddings. The two additions in the foyer will provide a minimum of 100 additional seats for worship. Our music ministries are faced with a variety of challenges; location of seating as well as moving chairs, Bell tables, and other equipment. A choir loft will be constructed in place of the current sacistries and a storage room nearby will be added.
Our current restrooms are old, unattractive, and out of compliance for persons with handicapping conditions. The project will include the remodeling of the restrooms and chair/table storage areas. The office area has inadequate ductwork for air conditioning, deteriorating lighting, old floor and wall coverings, and ceilings that are in need of replacement.
The remodeling of the sanctuary will provide the following benefits: 1) everyone will be able to see, 2) those in wheelchairs or using walkers will be able to move across a flat floor more easily, 3) music ministry will have an attractive and permanent “place” with almost no movement of furniture and equipment needed, 4) audio and visual equipment will enhance our worship experiences, especially for funerals and weddings, 5) seating capacity will be increased by at least 100, 6) a “bride’s room” will be conveniently located near the sanctuary, 7) a new Communion preparation room will provide a larger space for our volunteers, 8) more usable storage space will be available near the sanctuary, 9) much easier flow of people through the expanded entrance to the sanctuary, 10) greater comfort with a more effective heating/cooling system, 11) more attractive and comfortable seating, and 12) better lighting to enhance the worship experience.
The remodeling of the foyer and parlor will provide the following benefits; 1) additional space will encourage more conversation and fellowship on Sunday morning and 2) the creation of a “coffee shop” feel in the current parlor space will encourage conversations during the week.
The remodeling of the restrooms will provide the following benefits; 1) attractive and handicap accessible restrooms, 2) addition of a family restroom, and 3) easier movement of tables and chairs to the Fellowship Hall. The current custodial equipment room will be relocated to a larger space.
The remodeling of the offices will provide the following benefit: a more pleasant, inspiring, and efficient work environment for church staff and volunteers.
The architect estimates the cost of the work described above will be approximately $1.3 million and will require approximately 6 months. Of course, no remodeling work will begin until the District Committee on Building and Location approves the project and the funding plan. There will also be a church conference so everyone has an opportunity to be a part of the decision-making.
We have turned the corner on 20 plus years of decline. The Holy Spirit is doing something new in and through us. Now’s the time for us to take another bold step to share the good news of Jesus’ amazing love.
I will permit myself some limited latitude to note that Rev. Walter Brueggeman, Lutheran pastor, scholar, and theologian, speaks of the commandment, “do not take the Lord’s name in vain”:
We need to understand the Ten Commandments as guidelines on how to care about the neighborhood. . . . Because God is holy, we are not permitted to equate any of our pet projects to God’s holiness, no matter how holy they are. . . . Neighbors are entitled to ultimate respect. . .
Other continuing Issues
I am aware that there are continuing concerns relating to leadership’s threats to the membership of a few persons who have not given financially to the church, or have been active in seeking compliance with Methodist principles and the Book of Discipline. I have been tempted to go there, but, frankly, I have neither the health nor the energy. Those persons have some remedies available to them. I do continue to support them and I hope that others in the congregation will be sensitive to their plight and our Christian duties as a congregation.