Giving A Bigger Welcome
We want our building to match our mission of showing God’s love to people. Sometimes facilities can send the wrong message – when they’re not handicap accessible or when it’s a little cramped to get in with a stroller or with poor restrooms or cramped meeting spaces.
We’re adding to our facility to send the right message. We want to welcome everyone, and that means building a better entrance, with a better elevator, lobby space, meeting spaces, and child care facilities for our growing kids programs. It’s a big project and we have lots of folks working hard on it, giving generously, praying hard. It’s all part of our mission to show God to people.
During the construction project, we’re really fortunate to be able to meet for AM worship right next door at the Goshen Christian Preschool – we have some wonderful temporary meeting spaces and will continue to build community as we build a building.
Background – The Story
On a bright, clear Sunday in 1951 our third pastor, Rev. Jacob Smith, led us in praise to God as we dedicated our sanctuary building to God’s glory and service. It was the same year the New Jersey Turnpike opened. I Love Lucy was first appearing on Television. The average house price cost $2,115. Harry S. Truman was the president. It was a while back when we gathered, having all worked hard, sacrificed and committed together to build a better, more comfortable, accessible building in part so that we could use more space in our former building to teach kids .
Those prayers of dedication were answered. In the 66 years and during the well over 6,600 services that took place in this building God has been glorified in good times in bad, in times of growth and in times of suffering. We grew closer together and closer to God.
We’ve also worked hard at maintaining this building. We’ve replaced several roofs, changed the windows, modified the stage, replaced carpet and added air conditioning along with countless other projects. The basement has been reconfigured more than once during the last 66 years as we’ve had different needs and additional facilities. We are blessed with an abundance of buildings and wonderful facilities that we’ve invested a lot in.
But lots of you have noticed some major challenges over the years. In 1951 there was not a lot of thought put into making things handicap accessible. We later installed an outdoor lift – it’s loud, exposed and a little rickety. Some of you enter church every week like this without complaining. But we have members who are elderly and don’t come to worship because they refuse to use our external elevator. We want to have folks come with strollers. Most public buildings are required to have handicapped-accessibility. We don’t meet ADA standards.
We’ve also had some problems with our front steps and porch area. This is the only part of our building that has started to crumble over the last 66 years. We will have to do something about this in the future. Right now, the surface quickly becomes hazardous when wet or wet and cold. During the wintertime, we’ll actually put orange cones on Goshen side and ask people to avoid it. We’ve resealed it regularly but it leaks and guess where the moisture goes?
The moisture from our porch and steps seep into our main bathrooms. – That’s right, our main bathrooms are located underneath our outdoor entry way that we need to fix. We haven’t majorly updated these bathrooms in 66 years, because if we did, they’d just get damaged by water. So not only do you have to go down two narrow flights of stairs to use the main not-handicap accessible bathrooms but these bathrooms are damp and not worth redoing.
Our building committee has spent over a year discussing options, looking at solutions that would meet or exceed handicap accessibility requirements, while replacing front porch and renovating bathrooms and providing a space to encourage hospitality as we welcome and include more people. Last May we presented some rough drafts of a renovation plan and the congregation approved the use of bonds and we’ve spent almost a year working with blueprints, town codes and taking in bids and starting to raise funds.
We’re almost ready to move forward. We’re planning on tearing down the front steps, porch and bathrooms and replacing it with a more conventional, enclosed elevator that goes to all three levels, two indoor stairways and upstairs and downstairs bathrooms with some more open space upstairs for people to welcome and be welcomed and some additional classroom space downstairs. Another goal addressed by this change is the opportunity that replacing the porch has to create a clearer entrance point for people who are here for the first time, along with an obvious drop off point. We’d like to add a main floor cry room where moms with infants can go and see and hear the service without being too far from what’s going on and to provide adequate space for fellowship, greeting and orientation of visitors and members alike as well as a place to promote tools of our faith and works with information screens, bulletin boards, Bibles, literature to help people in life’s journey.
Imagine with our building committee what this might look like. How much better would things be if we could better welcome people who are physically handicap, our elderly, and parents with strollers. Imagine a clear entrance easily found by visitors with bright clean, dry bathroom with space for new moms and a bigger-than-a-hallway place for the fellowship, friendships and connections that could happen in a lobby much larger than our narrow entrance.
This is what we believe God is leading us to do. It’s not going to be easy – nothing worth doing ever is. We need to put in the work of prayer, discussion along with faith and love. It’s the biggest change we’ve made to this building. But it’s not our first big project by a long shot, and we’ve learned a lot about how to come together and build things together. We’re convinced that there are wonderful things ahead as we work together to God’s glory.