By MARGAUX HENQUINET
After years of planning, designing and fundraising, St. Andrew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church broke ground for its “Building for Christ’s Mission” renovation and expansion campaign on Sunday, March 7.
The ceremony started at 10 a.m. in the church’s Fellowship Hall, the room that was once the main gathering space of St. Andrew’s, located at 914 West Blvd. It then moved into the Centrum, the current worship space, before ending outside, where the projected perimeter of the expansion was marked with orange tape tied to sticks in the ground.
Throughout the celebration, there were prayers, songs and performances by the church’s brass ensemble and children’s choir. Representatives from the congregation and the builder wielded the shovels for the initial groundbreaking, but children lingered outside and did some digging of their own after most of the guests had gone back inside for refreshments.
Pastor Paul Moessner said the groundbreaking begins the construction phase of the project, though it might be a few days before work can begin due to factors such as the weather. He said there is a lot of excitement and gratitude in the community about the project getting started.
“Things have all come together, and it’s a great time to take the next step,” he said.
Moessner said work on “Building for Christ’s Mission” began about four years ago. Committees with members representing different aspects of congregational life, such as worship and Sunday school, have been working on the project since 2007, taking time to consider all of their options. Moessner said the question was how to maintain and improve the church to make its ministry more effective.
The first priority was to make needed repairs, such as replacing a leaky roof, Council President Beth Hemke Shapiro said. From there, the committees started thinking about long-term improvements, considering what needed to be done to make the church more relaxing and comfortable, she said. The Centrum will be given an overall update, with new colors, reupholstered chairs, projection screens and updates to the sound system.
The Narthex, the gathering space just outside the Centrum, will be expanded, and the back wall of the Centrum will be opened up and replaced with glass, creating a window into the new area of the Narthex. The existing youth room will double in size, and there will be space added for adult education as well.
The front of the building will be renovated to look more like a church, distinguishable from a school or an office building, and will be taller and closer to the road, Building Committee Chairman Urb Molitor said.
“I think that’s critical, having the presence in Columbia that people recognize,” he said.
According to a brochure for the campaign, renovations will also include new flooring, a new prayer room, more accessible restrooms, consolidation of office space and a safer driveway onto West Boulevard.
Moessner said the project is going to give St. Andrew’s not only more space but also better space for church operations, such as worship, Christian education, meetings and informal gatherings.
“I think it’s going to uplift the atmosphere in the place where we worship,” Moessner said.
He said he has already seen a lot of real excitement for the project.
“Few congregations are completely unanimous about efforts like this, but there’s great appreciation for where we are and what we’ve done so far,” Moessner said.
The renovations are being financed by donations from members of the congregation. Moessner said the campaign’s planners recognized the challenges of the economic climate and developed plans that recognized the circumstances of the community and people.
“At the same time, we’ve seen a lot of commitment and people rearranging things in life to make this a priority,” he said. Donation amounts varied, Moessner said, but the number of people who participated showed an overall strong commitment to the project.
Church members made three-year pledges to give, Shapiro said. Donors decided how much they wanted to give, and they had the option of donating weekly, annually or in a lump sum, she said.
Molitor said about $700,000 has been pledged so far. He said he thinks people are excited about the renovations, judging by how many church members attended the groundbreaking ceremony — Molitor estimated that number to be between 150 and 175 people.
“They’re just ready to get started, which we’re doing at this point,” he said.
Molitor said it’s good for the members of the congregation to see that work is finally starting on the project. The building committee has seen plans and drawings and week-to-week progress, he said, but people outside meetings didn’t see any of that.
“People who don’t see those baby steps can finally see the whole thing moving,” Molitor said.
Shapiro said she is very excited to see work beginning on the renovations.
“Many people have been involved in this project, and it’s lovely to see it coming to fruition,” she said.