New brick, mortar builds more nuts, bolts for church's mission

Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2012, 11:40 pm
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By Leon Lagerstam,
ROCK ISLAND -- A line of construction hard hats sat atop a baby grand piano and copies of building plans and architect renderings covered a table in St. John Lutheran Church's parish hall.

Outside, the parsonage and garage that once stood next to the church at 4501 7th Ave., Rock Island, are gone, replaced by a fenced off area of dirt and gaping holes.

Church leaders concern themselves more with the ''nuts and bolts of our mission,'' the Rev. Stacie Fidlar said, adding that the impending new brick-and-mortar ''are just tools to accomplish our mission.''

A recent capital campaign raised $2.03 million to build a 6,800-square-foot addition and remodel an area of the church built in 1937, Rev. Fidlar and building task force chairwoman Shirley Johnson said.

''After two years of planning and working, we began construction in early November and will be finished by the end of August 2013,'' Ms. Johnson said.

The project has created enthusiasm and excitement that is "so much fun to see," building committee member Vicky Morrow said, adding once the work is done, ''everything will be on the same level.''

''And it will turn the church around,'' with a clear entrance to the church from the building's north side, building committee member Phil Dennis said.

Over the years, visitors struggled to find their way into church, because it had no front entrance, Ms. Johnson said.
''The church will now have a front door, facing 6th Avenue, which will be inviting and visible during the day and especially at night,'' and there will be special-needs parking near the entrance.

The goal is to make St. John's more ''welcome, inviting and accessible,'' Mr. Dennis said. ''The congregation was challenged by the idea of extending its ministries and by the desire to leave a legacy to the next generations.''

''As we look toward the future here at St. John's, we are blessed by a building that has been given to us by others,'' Ms. Johnson said. ''The time is ripe for us to gift the next generation with a building that truly reflects who we are and what we believe.

''A core value here at St. John's can be summed up in the phrase 'A Place For All People, where we experience and share God's love with the world,' '' she said.

The church also has a long tradition of serving the community, Ms. Johnson said. ''The proposed improvements will help us to both welcome the broader community into our building, as well as better serve our active and dynamic congregation.''

The dream of making a building that's more accessible to everyone is ''probably 50 years in the making for this congregation,'' Rev. Fidlar said.

Specific plans, however, started in 2009 when a long-range planning committee was formed, followed by creation of a building task force and the $2 million-plus capital campaign, she said.

''We hired a fundraiser consultant to help us develop a 'Building to Serve' capital campaign, which took place in the first half of 2012,'' Ms. Johnson said.

''It's been an interesting year,'' Rev. Fidlar said.

In addition to the capital campaign and remodeling project, the church bought a $79,000 house nearby and renovated it into a place called the Micah House, a partnership project involving the church and Augustana College.

Selected Augie students live in the house and participate in long-term service projects in the nearby Keystone and Floreciente neighborhoods.

While the building projects demanded their attention, church leaders try to stay focused on its mission work, Mr. Dennis said.

Staying ''grounded and growing in Christ" was used as a campaign rallying cry on promotional booklets.

''Sure we had talked about the 'if we build it, will they come' aspect, that's not our primary focus,'' he said. ''It's not just about the numbers or the dollars. While some other churches focus their energy on bricks and mortar sometimes, we are trying to construct a ministry.''

''It's about living who we are in Christ,'' Rev. Fidlar said.

The idea behind the construction and capital campaign projects is that it will help the church more fully perform its mission. she said. If attendance or membership numbers are boosted as a result, so be it, she said.

In addition to a new front entrance and Americans with Disabilities Act accessible parking, ADA restrooms and a drop-off drive, church improvements also will update kitchen facilities, electrical and mechanical systems, and remodeled office space. Work will include a new security, fire alarm, and water sprinkler systems, Ms. Johnson said.

''There are infrastructure improvements that will improve our energy efficiency, as well as long-term planning for heating and roof replacements which will be needed over the next 10-15 years,'' she said. ''Rather than respond to emergencies with pleas for additional giving, this capital campaign will allow us to make necessary repairs before they become emergencies.''

The project may sound quite ambitious for a church that draws about 110 people to worship weekly in a time of such economic uncertainty, Rev. Fidlar said.

''But this addition was built in 1937, and that wasn't a particularly rousing time for the economy either,'' she said. ''Yet it was the right time for the church to build then, and it's the right time for our church to build now.''

A time line of St. John's Lutheran Church historical events
--1928: English (Grace) and Swedish (Zion) congregations united to form St. John's Lutheran Church
--1937: Constructed parish hall addition
--1948: Remodeled chancel/organ
--1953: Celebrated 25th anniversary
--1977: Renovated and remodeled much of the church building, the first major improvements since 1937.
--1978: Celebrated 50th anniversary
--1989: Installed central air conditioning, built south addition, including an elevette
--1992: Installed handicap accessible parking lot ramp
--1997: Repainted church
--2002: Renovated sanctuary; installed new roof
--2003: Celebrated 75th anniversary
--2004: Installed new organ
--2007: Repaired boiler and furnace
--2008: Bought vacant lot on northeast corner; completed electrical upgrades
--2010: Bought a grand piano, and a house in the 4500 block of 7th Avenue.


Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Sept. 1, the 244th day of 2014. There are 121 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: We are informed by J.H. Hull that the reason the street sprinkler was not at work yesterday settling the dust on the streets, was because one of his horses was injured.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Bonnie McGregor, a fleet-footed stallion owned by S.W. Wheelock of this community, covered himself with glory at Lexington, Ky, when he ran a mile in 2:13 1/2. The horse's value was estimated as at least $50,000.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Troops are pouring into Paris to prepare for defense of the city. The German army is reported to be only 60 miles from the capital of France.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The German army has invaded Poland in undeclared warfare. Poland has appealed to Great Britain and France for aid.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Publication of a plant newspaper, the Farmall Works News, has been launched at the Rock Island IHC factory and replaces a managerial newsletter.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Officials predict Monday's Rock Island Labor Parade will be the biggest and best ever. Last minute work continues on floats and costumes for the parade, which steps off a 9:30 a.m.

(More History)