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, when it’s a little cramped to get in with a stroller, when restrooms are poor restroom, or when meeting spaces are cramped. We’ve added to our facility to send the right message. We want to welcome everyone, with easy to locate entrances, a better elevator, lobby, meeting spaces, and child care facilities for our ever growing kids programs. It's been a big project, and we had lots of folks working extremely hard on it, giving generously and praying hard. It’s all part of our mission to show God to people. We hope our building is as welcoming to you as our community!
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 and 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. Many 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 was loud, exposed, and a little rickety. Some of you entered the church every week like this without complaining, but we had elderly members who wouldn't come to worship because they refused to use our external elevator. We wanted to have folks come with strollers. Most public buildings are required to have handicapped-accessibility. We didn't meet ADA standards. We’ve also had some problems with our front steps and porch area. It was the only part of our building that started to crumble over the last 66 years. The surface quickly became hazardous when wet and cold. We’ve resealed it regularly, but it continued to leak from the porch and seep into our main bathrooms. That’s right, our main bathrooms were located underneath the outdoor entrance that very much needed fixing. Not only did you have to go down two narrow flights of stairs to use the main non-handicap accessible bathrooms, but these bathrooms were damp and not worth redoing.
Our building committee spent over a year discussing options, looking at solutions that would meet or exceed handicap accessibility requirements, while replacing the front porch, renovating bathrooms, and providing a space to encourage hospitality and include more people. We presented some rough drafts of a renovation plan and the congregation approved the use of bonds, spending almost a year working with blueprints, town codes and taking in bids to start raising funds. We reached a point where we were finally ready to move forward; tearing down the front steps, porch and bathrooms and replacing them with a more conventional, enclosed elevator that reaches all three levels. Two indoor stairways were added, reaching upstairs and downstairs bathrooms with plenty of open space for people to welcome and be welcomed. Additional classroom space was added downstairs. Another goal addressed by this change was the opportunity to replace the porch with clearer entry points for people who are coming for the first time, along with an obvious drop off point. We added a main floor "cry room" where moms with infants can settle in and hear the service without being too far from what’s going on. Adequate space was added 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 and literature to help people in life’s journey.
Our vision has come to life. It's what we believed God led us to do. It hasn't been easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. We put in the work of prayer and discussion, along with faith and love. It’s the biggest change we’ve ever made to this building. It’s not our first big project by a long shot, but we’ve better learned 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.