Welcoming people of all ages … hospitality for the community… accessibility for persons with disabilities… discipling youth… energy efficiency… opportunities for peace and justice work. These are among the reasons a number of WDC congregations are planning or currently doing building or renovation projects on their facilities. WDC invited them to share about their projects and how this expresses a vision to connect with the community:
Turpin (OK) Mennonite Church is adding a new nursery and handicapped-accessible restrooms. Pastor Terry Rediger said the congregation hopes this will make the facility more welcoming for persons using walkers and wheelchairs, and families with infants and toddlers. Another way the church reaches out is to provide a meal for school teachers during fall and spring parent-teacher conferences at the Turpin School.
Tabor Mennonite Church (Newton, KS) plans to add a ground-level fellowship hall (see drawing at top of page) with kitchen and restrooms, as well as a new elevator to the lower level where the former fellowship hall was, which will be renovated to provide space for junior and senior high youth rooms. Pastor Phil Schmidt expressed the hope that the project will express the congregational vision to offer hospitality, healing and hope in the name of Christ, as it creates a more hospitable place for fellowship, learning, and worship for people of all ages and abilities. Tabor Mennonite Church hosts Wednesday evening ministries, Bible School, a food pantry, serves at New Hope Shelter for homeless persons, and at the annual Mennonite Central Committee Relief Sale.
Peace Mennonite Church (Lawrence, KS) is adding new worship space, kitchen and bathroom to their existing building, with plans to convert former space into offices, classrooms, library and meeting room. Additional space will allow the congregation to offer greater hospitality and include more people. “We believe God is calling us to grow for the sake of more faithfully sharing the peace of Christ with each other and with our community,” said pastor Joanna Harader. Peace Mennonite Church hosts the neighborhood association at their facility; they cook food and serve once a month for a local soup kitchen, and are active with a local inter-faith justice organization.
Houston (TX) Mennonite Church is doing a total campus re-design including constructing a new facility. Pastor Marty Troyer wrote, “Our Anabaptist ministry and witness in Houston are more relevant – and crucial – than ever. More people are seeking us out, drawn by Jesus’ message of peace and intrigued by his gospel of radical justice for all.” The congregation partners with United We Dream to address needs of undocumented persons, and hosts SURJ (Showing Up For Racial Justice) events, Peace Camp, two different worshiping congregations, and the Houston Peace and Justice Center. These relationships and partnerships coincide with the opportunity to move into a larger and more modern space.
Austin (TX) Mennonite Church is renovating their main restrooms to be accessible for people with disabilities. Pastor Lee Lever noted the congregation’s desire to be a welcoming church for all people, including current members as well as visitors from the community. The area of Austin in which the church facility is located includes a number of group homes serving persons with disabilities.
Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church (Goessel, KS) plans to add a commercial elevator off of the ground-level front entrance of their historic building, to allow accessibility to the sanctuary on the main level, and lower-level fellowship hall. Pastor Caleb Yoder noted that they see this as a tangible message of welcome to all who visit and gather as the body of Christ. The project will also replace the front doors with an airlock for improved energy efficiency. An earlier renovation six years ago repaired a failing foundation and created a new multi-use space called the “Foundation Room,” used for a children’s midweek ministry involving many community children. They have also renovated a shelter house for youth ministry and community gatherings, and are adding a kiosk in the cemetery to welcome all who come to pay respect to loved ones.
How did these congregations decide to undertake building projects? They were motivated by both vision/mission and needs/limitations. Then came congregational surveys to gather feedback and ideas, deliberation among leadership groups, appointing task groups to guide the process, reviewing proposals and construction estimates, considering financial resources and fundraising capacity, and finally congregational decisions. In all cases, the process took several – or many – years. Some congregations faced setbacks, and needed more information, additional congregational discussion or alternative proposals. But this patience and persistence paid off, as plans were improved and greater congregational support emerged. As Peace Mennonite Church pastor Joanna Harader said, “We came to a congregational meeting… expecting to contend with a wide range of opinions about which direction the church should go. The Holy Spirit moved among us in a powerful way at that meeting and we discovered that we had a consensus to begin a capital campaign and embark on a building project. The congregation moved forward from that point with great energy and enthusiasm and we have seen God’s faithfulness throughout our process.”
Thanks be to God for vision to listen and learn, hope and wait, plan and implement projects that further the mission of the church. May God’s purposes be realized as these facilities are filled and used by people of all kinds for years to come!