Decatur First United Methodist breaks ground for facility
By Ronnie Thomas
They shivered Sunday morning against the wind and the bite of record-breaking cold.
But the hearts of about 200 parishioners of the 1,100-member Decatur First United Methodist Church at 805 Canal St. N.E. must have felt the warmth of growth’s glow.
Standing on the property at Canal and Church streets, in the shadow of a huge oak tree on a sun-splashed Easter, the church had groundbreaking for a $3.9 million Fellowship Hall and Christian Education Facility.
The pastor, the Rev. Terry L. Greer, District Superintendent the Rev. Hal Noble of Florence, Clyde Sasser, chairman of the building committee, other committee members and architect Fred Underwood turned the ceremonial spades of dirt.
All then cheered as children released green balloons signifying growth.
Greer gave a lesson from Matthew 16:13-18, which concludes with Jesus saying that “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
In directing that ground be broken, Greer said, “The responsibility and the privilege rest upon us to cause a building to rise here that shall be a house of the people of God and a place devoted to the worship of almighty God and to the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Underwood, who has been a member of the church since 1962, said the multimillion-dollar investment in the 23,000-square-foot building includes the total package — furnishings, fixtures, architect and engineering fees, and landscaping.
“It will be attached to and be an extension of the main church building,” he said. “The church plans to renovate 11,600 square feet in the existing fellowship hall and education facility, or one-third of the building, for administrative offices and a welcome center.”
He said the addition will include 12 Sunday school rooms on the second and third floors above a 4,000-square-foot fellowship hall, which will feature a kitchen and a stage. Members also will get a covered pickup area along Canal Street. Underwood said a fire sprinkler system will cover the entire church.
He said a pre-construction meeting is set Tuesday and he expects the city to issue a building permit later in the week. E Tech Construction of Hartselle is general contractor.
“The entire project will require 435 consecutive calendar days,” Underwood said — “11 months to construct the new addition and about 100 days for the renovation.”
Noble, former pastor of Central United Methodist Church, called the decision to erect the facility “a step of faith ... you have the prayer and support of many others.”
Kidding the brethren at nearby First Baptist Church, he turned to the architect and asked, “Is this (facility) going to be as tall?” Underwood replied, “Not quite,” although it will rise three stories.
During the groundbreaking, Sasser used the shovel that broke the ground for the education building in 1990. Greer wielded the shovel he used to break ground on Easter Sunday 2000 at Christ Central United Methodist Church in Gadsden.
Always thinking of increasing the flock of Decatur First United Methodist, Greer said, “We will soon have 15 bed babies in the nursery. Seven are here, with eight more on the way.”
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