Volunteers fuel renovation at Indian Methodist church

VOLUNTEERS nathan dick, left, and his father, Gary Dick, work on Lawrence Indian Methodist Church, 950 E. 21st St. The renovation should be completed by the end of fall.

Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church has plenty of fellowship to offer its members and visitors.

What it has lacked, since its inception in 1963, is adequate space to provide for all the activities of the congregation, located in a modest, single-story facility at 950 E. 21st St.

But that situation is changing, thanks to an extensive renovation project under way that carries a $250,000 price tag and should be done this fall.

“Our facility is so small. This will give us the opportunity to have enough room as a church to go from worship in the sanctuary right to a meal where the tables are all set up,” says the Rev. Julienne Judd, pastor.

“Right now, we can only put three tables together, and that takes up all the room that we have in the fellowship area. Once this addition is built, there will be plenty of room to gather around.”

An addition to the building is only art of the project. The final plans call for a total renovation of the building’s exterior, replacing the white siding and murky window with a bright, modern facade.

Work at the church, which began in mid-February, is the result of more than a decade of fund raising and planning by its members.

So far, the congregation has raised $30,000 through donations and proceeds from its monthly Indian taco sales.

Volunteer labor is essential to the project, according to Judd.

“We’ve paid for two things completely: the foundation and the plumbing. But once we got that started, other people began finding out about the building,” Judd said.

“The walls are being built by contractors and construction workers from various United Methodist churches, (such as) Worden and Baldwin. Many of the volunteers own their own construction companies and other businesses.”

The project is also listed in the United Methodist Church’s Volunteers in Mission Program, so that members of other congregations know about it and can choose to pitch in and help if they wish.

Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church has a membership of more than 80 people, and Sunday worship typically attracts about 60, according to Judd.

It belongs to the United Methodist Church’s Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, which was created specifically for outreach to Native Americans.

The conference is made up of 91 churches and four fellowships in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Eighteen different Indian tribes – including Cherokee, Cree, Navajo and Choctaw – are represented in the Lawrence congregation, Judd said.

Judd’s ancestry is Kiowa and Choctaw. She is the first Kiowa woman ever to be a Methodist pastor. She has been a pastor for 17 years.

Judd, 51, ministers to four churches: the Lawrence congregation; Sullivan Chapel United Methodist Church in Topeka; Horton Indian United Methodist Church in Horton; and Kahbeah Fellowship of the Kickapoo Reservation.

In June, Judd will have been pastor at the Lawrence church for two years. This is the second time she has been appointed to lead that congregation. She was also its pastor in 1989-90.

Participation is on the upswing these days, Judd said.

“Attendance has been steadily increasing every month,” she said. “There’s about 20 people at our Thursday night Bible study, and it keeps growing.”