CLINTON — Walking up to Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, people can see a difference right away. The parking lot is smaller, but a large addition connects to the main entrance and sanctuary.
"There's been a lot of time and a lot of prayer put into this," said Pastor Jen Henry about the new and renewed spaces in the church. "As our building grows, so may we and our ministries."
Since the church broke ground on phase two of this project almost a year ago - phase one being the relocation of the daycare center to across the street - construction crews and volunteers have worked with 30,000 square feet, 5,000 of it new.
The community will have a chance to see the changes at a special dedication and celebration at 2 p.m. Sunday. Informal tours will begin at 1 p.m. and continue after the dedication.
Zion Project Manager Dennis Schoening said this project is a long time coming. Remodeling the church has been a topic of discussion for decades, but it was in 2003 that the church formed a facility planning committee to determine the congregation's future needs.
"It was always talked about, but never quite realized," Schoening said.
Henry said a vote among the congregation last year resulted in a 90 percent approval for a building project at a cost of approximately $2.3 million. The church held a fundraiser and took out a loan for the renovations. Mostly local contractors were used for the project, with Brian Johnson acting as the project manager for Clinton Engineering.
Henry said the project affected almost every area of the church, with two-thirds of it happening behind the walls. New energy-efficient lighting and a new heating and air conditioning system were added, along with new windows. The addition of an elevator will allow greater access to those in wheelchairs.
The most noticeable change to the church is the addition of a gathering room off the sanctuary and main entrance. This large room, complete with a kitchenette, offers space for the congregation and community to meet. The large cross from the old New Hope Lutheran Church will hang in the center of the main wall.
Located next to the sanctuary, this space may be used for overflow during services and events that fill the sanctuary. The room will be outfitted with wi-fi, a sound system and a large-screen television. Associate Pastor Joshua Martyn hopes to see the video capability expanded to allow members to watch the service from this gathering hall.
The room will be available for community events as well. The church already opens its space to Habitat for Humanity and a local cancer support group.
"We want the community to be more involved in using our facilities and coming into our facilities. making it more open," Martyn said.
This new gathering area is a favorite of Schoening's 7-year-old granddaughter, Alyssa Schroeder. The church recently used the area for Vacation Bible School.
A major overhaul to the kitchen also was performed, with closet walls knocked down to open it up and create more space. Administration offices that were once accessible by an exterior fire escape have been moved to the main floor. Additional bathrooms have been added as well.
An addition to the sanctuary will give energetic children a place to play and still witness the service. By removing two back pews, contractors built an enclosed "Children's Sanctuary," complete with chairs, workbooks and toys.
The project included 22 colors of paint on the walls and approximately 60 new doors. The church also is adding a new security system with outside lights, cameras, a buzzer door and a key fob door system.
Throughout the renovations, church administration was able to move into each area as it was complete. They agreed the experience was not always pleasant.
"There was a lot of dust. There was tremendous chaos," Henry said. "A lot of noise."
However, regular worship services and church events continued. Only the annual sauerkraut supper was delayed by the project. It will be Sept. 19.
Seeing the project nearing completion, Henry and the rest of the staff are grateful to all of the volunteers. Members of the congregation painted, worked on the ceiling tiles, installed cabinets and brought food to the other volunteers. Many of them helped tile parts of the new bathroom walls by hand.
"The congregation has been involved intensely on the project," Schoening said.
At least 125 members helped and almost half a dozen core people were at the church on a daily basis.
"Those who are retired, became un-retired," Martyn said.
More about the church's addition, Page 4B