When Maxine Graves, one of the oldest active members of First Christian Church, walked into her church recently, she got tears in her eyes. The 88-year-old woman was stunned. She never thought it would look as beautiful as it does now.
“I think it’s great progress,” said Graves, who has attended First Christian since 1950. “It’s time we did something. The whole sanctuary needs to be done every so often because things get so worn.”
Renovations to First Christian Church, 1000 Kentucky St., started in mid-August and ended on Dec. 28. The road to improvement did not stop the congregation from worship. They still met every Sunday for service. One Sunday in October, they met in the church parking lot under a tent.
The church was built in 1908. In 1962 and 1991, additions were made. The old building’s climate was at the mercy of a boiler system, which meant almost every room was uncomfortable during cold winters and hot summers.
“In the sanctuary, we had the old-fashioned radiators from 1908,” the Rev. David Rivers said. “In the winter, no one would sit in the middle because all of the heat was on the outside.”
The entire building now has a central heating and cooling system.
The main floor also went through some major changes. The carpet is new. The walls are painted different shades of green to complement the original stained-glass windows. And the chancel includes a giant wooden cross, wooden baptistry and stained-glass chalice.
“The new carpet and the new paint are representatives of the excitement that’s going on in the church now,” said Glenn Prescott, church moderator. “There’s a renewed enthusiasm in the community for LINK and what the church does.”
LINK, the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen, provides a hangout place at the church and lunch four times a week for needy people and families. The church also is home to the approximately 30-year-old Giving Tree Preschool and a new program called the Helping Hands Closet, which helps homeless people transition into housing by providing various household items.
A few years before renovation of the church, parishioners considered constructing a new building on the edge of town. However, a committee of members determined such a move would be too expansive, so they decided to renovate the Kentucky Street church. The congregation, which is about 320 people, raised about $750,000 in 10 weeks to pay for the improvements.
First Christian Church will host an open house with refreshments, coffee and tours after services on Sunday, Feb. 3.
“Everybody looks forward to coming to church now,” said Shawn Henderson, director of the elders. “When they miss a Sunday, they feel like they’ve missed out on something, and that’s what we haven’t had in a long time.”