Jefferson Street United Methodist Church to consecrate new Christian Life Center Sept. 28

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 30, 2003

With a past filled with colorful stories and characters, Jefferson Street United Methodist Church now looks forward to a bright future with its new $1.6-million facility as an attractive center of activity.

A complementary addition to the handsome 125-year-old church building at the corner of Jefferson and Union streets impressively extends to the west, completed in recent weeks and ready for the congregation to share with the public.

&uot;We’ll have the consecration of the Christian Life Center on Sept. 28

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at the 11 a.m. service,&uot; said the Rev. James Earl &uot;Pete&uot; Herndon. &uot;Then we’ll invite the public to an open house from 3 to 5 that afternoon.&uot;

The invitation is open to all who want to see the large new facility, complete with a commercial-style kitchen, game room for young people, classrooms and, in the center of it all, a full-size auditorium-gym-dining hall.

The new facility is symbolic of how churches are changing and what they must do to remain viable in the future, Herndon said.

&uot;Jefferson Street was at a crossroads. Their choices were to move out to another location, stay here and add the new facility or die.&uot;

Compelling reasons existed to remain in the historic church in the downtown area, Herndon said. So the congregation gave its commitment to an addition.

Jefferson Street member Tom Middleton was chairman of the building committee and was in from the beginning of the idea for an addition, dating to more than 10 years ago and through the pastorates of three ministers.

Herndon’s arrival was good timing for the project, Middleton said. &uot;He was a blessing because he has had lots of building experience in his moving about the state.&uot;

The project has been an on-going challenge, beginning with the parking lot across the street from the church and continuing with the recently finished building, Middleton said. The new facility fills a need and presents a further challenge to continue a trend of growth.

&uot;For years, Jefferson Street had begun to age in its congregation, with the median age over 50,&uot; Middleton said.

&uot;But in the 1990s, we began to get a lot of young families with young children. And we didn’t have the facilities for that ministry. Now we’re a young, growing church, and we want that to continue.&uot;

The last 30 years have brought changes in what is expected of a church, Herndon said. &uot;There is more ministry to the total person and total family. Churches everywhere are going to these types of programs and are building the facilities for them.&uot;

The Jefferson Street Christian Life Center is multipurpose and multigenerational, Herndon said. &uot;There is something for everyone. And out of this, we’re expanding our Wednesday evening programs to have children’s activities, children’s choir and musical activities, adult hand bells, chancel choir practice, Bible studies and other programs for adults, and we’ve built in a 20-minute worship service at the end of the meal.&uot;

Growth in a church is not always easy to explain, Herndon said. &uot;I can’t give you the reasons why we’ve grown. Once upon a time where you were born in a church is where you would die,&uot; he said. But today it’s not so much about denomination. You have to have something to attract people. They want to know what their children can do and what best meets their needs.&uot;

The congregation and all the committees working to make the church additions successful have been harmonious and committed, Herndon said.

&uot;It’s been a total church effort with no one person dominating.&uot;

Middleton agreed. &uot;Everything has gone extremely well. It was a pleasure to work on the project,&uot; he said.