A long-held dream became reality for the Chadron Seventh-day Adventist congregation earlier this summer, and Sunday they shared that dream with the community during an open house at its new church west of Chadron.
The congregation moved into its new 10,000 square-foot facility the final weekend of June, said Pastor Mark Magnusson, completing the relocation from its 90-year-old church at Sixth and Bordeaux Streets. The church began looking at remodeling its old facility at least five years ago, before Magnusson became the pastor, but as they explored that idea they realized it would be more feasible to build a new church.
Featuring a larger sanctuary, a fellowship hall with a full kitchen, a conference room and five classrooms, as well as the pastor’s office and a cry room, the new church allows the congregation room to grow and puts all of the facilities on one level.
“That was one of the first things people talked about,” Magnusson said. “At the old church you had to go upstairs to get to the sanctuary and downstairs to get to the restrooms and classrooms.”
The more spacious sanctuary and the adjoining fellowship hall can seat 150 each, up from the 80-person capacity at the old church.
“It got a little tight,” Magnusson said. Services a week ago attracted over 100.
There is a dedicated audio/visual space in the sanctuary, and a connected projection screen in the fellowship hall allows services or funerals to be streamed in the event of an overflowing crowd. There’s plenty of storage, and the full kitchen allows the church to focus on its cooking classes and health seminars, all of which encourage healthy lifestyle choices, Magnusson said.
The sanctuary also has an attached cry room, and a conference room across the entryway provides a meeting space for church officials – both new features the old church did not have. Five classrooms for kids of all ages, as well as adult worship classes, lie down the hallway to the west of the sanctuary and fellowship hall. There’s plenty of storage throughout the building.
While there are still some minor details to finish, Magnusson said seeing the church completed is an exciting time for the congregation. Groundbreaking ceremonies took place more than a year ago, with the goal of moving into the church set at a bit earlier this spring. Despite a bit of a delay and a higher than expected price tag, Magnusson said the construction process was a valuable experience.
“The building process was a growing and learning process. It’ is a good way to look at it as a new start,” Magnusson said, as the new church has generated renewed enthusiasm in the congregation and from the larger community.
Fuller Construction of Chadron built the church for the Seventh-day Adventist congregation, though a missionary project allowed for some donated labor from congregation members and visiting missionaries. Maranatha Volunteers International worked with Fuller Construction during the framing and sheeting of the building.
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Since 1969, the organization has worked in 87 countries, said Sadie Torrez of Loveland, Colo., who served as the Chadron Maranatha project coordinator. In 2017 alone, almost 2,300 volunteers completed work on 583 structures in 13 countries. Maranatha volunteers construct churches, schools, orphanages and educational centers, Torrez said. In North America, its work generally focuses on churches, but the projects differ from the international trips in that the organization does not do any fundraising for North American projects. Still, churches in North America benefit from using the organization through a cost savings in labor.
The Chadron Seventh-day Adventist project started with 31 volunteers, though that number fluctuated based on volunteer schedules. All of the volunteers stayed with local families, and the church provided three meals a day. The effort brought volunteers from Brazil, Maryland, Iowa, California, Utah, Colorado and Oregon.
Magnusson and about a dozen other local volunteers worked alongside the Maranatha group during construction.
“It was fun to be part of the framing,” Magnusson said. “We ended up not saving as much (money) as we thought we would, but the experience was worth it.”
The largest challenge during construction was determining wants versus needs, he said. The congregation had to scale back some of its original plans as the price tag was calculated. It meant removing items such as wood paneling in the ceiling of the sanctuary to get the cost to come in at an estimated $1.7 million. The final costs exceeded the estimate, Magnusson said, though he declined to say how much the construction totaled.
Still, generous donations throughout the process allowed the church to add the wood paneling back into the sanctuary plans and to pave the parking lot, he said. More importantly, the congregation was able to complete the project without divisions among the membership.
“We haven’t had any of that. It feels good,” Magnusson said.
While the church is embracing its new home, the old church has not been forgotten. It is currently for sale, Magnusson said, but a significant piece of its history was relocated to the new church. The old stained glass windows from the 90-year-old church were transported and turned into a display in the new church’s entryway.
Magnusson said no one knows if the windows were original to the old church, but they wanted to incorporate some of the history in their new home.
The congregation will formally dedicate its new church during Labor Day weekend.