For most churches and individuals alike, the COVID pandemic was a time of waiting, waiting for normalcy to return. Ford Street UMC used this time to solidify their plans for a new sanctuary. Members say during that time, the church also renewed its sense of purpose.
Sadly, their previous, much loved sanctuary, was demolished 13 years earlier, as it was deemed to be structurally unsafe. Even then, there were many who dreamed of rebuilding a sacred space and that the remaining narthex would be used as a place to serve the community.
Pastor Glenn Knepp shared, “We felt like the thing we learned at Ford Street going through the pandemic was that the church was a lot more resilient and adaptable than even we thought.” The longstanding members remained steadfast, but “one of the great discoveries we had is we had some younger leaders step up to really help make sure that the online footprint got better, was able to serve people” throughout the pandemic.
Construction of the 3,600-square-foot, sanctuary began in March 2021.
Knepp shared, the congregation began moving toward that dream several years ago. “We got some momentum to move forward because the church was doing some good things in small group ministry. One ministry that really gains a lot of traction (and) helped Ford Street feel like it had relevance for its community still, is the supply store that we conduct every fall, that began in 2014, and that’s where we provide school supplies to kids in the Lapel community who are on the free and reduced lunch list. So, all these things kind of worked together to help the church feel we had a mission, a purpose and vitality in the community.”
Knepp said: Many lessons learned during the past several years, and in the past year in particular, will be reflected in a very visible and symbolic way in the sanctuary design, through a work of art that will not only shine within but also look outward.”
When the previous sanctuary was demolished some of the stained glass was saved. Only one piece, an image of Jesus as a shepherd, was displayed in the current worship space in a frame. “But when we build this sacred space, He’s going to be put back into a window where He’ll be looking out at Lapel again,” the pastor said. “And that is such a key thing, because if this church hadn’t learned through its back-to-school ministry and other things to really be looking out at Lapel, we wouldn’t be at a place where we would have the confidence or the capacity to be putting together a sacred place anyway. So, to me, it’s just such a powerful symbol for Jesus to be looking out at the community, not just in at us.”