Russell ministry center takes shape

The new ministry center at Russell United Methodist Church is taking shape and should be weather-tight next week, according to Don Nelson, chair for the church’s building committee.

In the late 1990’s, members of the church started planning on the center. Then plans morphed into a new sanctuary. After failing to get a bank loan in the poor economic times of the last decade, construction never got off the ground until earlier this year – again as a ministry center.

In addition to new construction, the “Hands of the Carpenter” began restoring the old church.

The Hands of the Carpenter is a church organization that performs community services by building handicapped ramps, repairing roofs and other building needs for members of the community.

Nelson said that the balcony in the church had been condemned as unsafe, so they decided to replace the existing support with steel I-beams and then covered it with studs and oak paneling that matches paneling in the church.

“I had a sense of connection to the people that built the balcony back in 1922,” he said.

Nelson explained that churches worked on the 80 percent rule, referring to adequate comfort levels when attendance doesn’t exceed 80 percent of capacity, and that the extra room the balcony provides will help.

He added that the church itself was built in 1854 with post-and-beam construction, more like a barn than a church.

The group will finish and trim the interior of the church, although the ministry center’s finish work will be completed by professionals.

They are also planning on a memorial brick walkway to honor people, living or dead.

The center will be a multi-purpose building, serving the needs of the community as well as the congregation, he said. The sanctuary lacks handicapped-access and restrooms, and Wesley Hall, which is behind the church, has inadequate office facilities.

“We’re building what we need, and we don’t need a new church,” he said.

The new center will be used for community dinners, afterschool and fitness activities and other events to be decided at brainstorming sessions.

“One guy asked if we could have question and answer sessions on the Bible,” he said.

Nelson is anticipating the center to be finished in late April to early May.