They are stepping out in faith

Published 8:47 am Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The congregation of High Street United Methodist Church is heeding the Biblical charge to “step out in faith” as they begin the process of building a new church in a new location. The “new” High Street UMC will be located on a 47-acre site on Camp Parkway just outside the city limits across from Riverdale Elementary School. The site, currently the home to horses and horse stables, has been purchased and ground is expected to be broken for the new facility in spring 2010.

The decision to build anew and to leave its namesake High Street has not been an easy or hasty one for the church. In 2006 the church formed the “Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future” Task Force to study the feasibility of renovating and expanding the existing hundred-year-old structure at the corner of High Street and First Avenue. That study indicated renovations and land acquisition for expansion would be far too costly, would produce little extra space, and still result in the church’s being “land-locked” with too little parking space. At that time and with the approval of the Church Council at a Charge Conference held to vote on the issue, the Task Force began looking for a new location for a new building site.

Finding sufficient acreage within the city proved futile. When the possibility of the Camp Parkway site became a reality, the church carefully considered the move. High Street has always and will continue to be a part of the Franklin churches despite its new physical location in the county. The new site just a little over a mile outside the city provides visibility, space for growth, proximity to new housing growth, and easy access for all current and future members. HSUMC is committed to preserving its past even as it steps forth in faith to build the new facility. The congregation has truly come “on board” with the decision, and there is much excitement as High Street begins the process of planning a facility to serve both Franklin and Southampton for the next 100 years.

High Street will not only carry its rich history with it but also some of its rich architectural details, such as the beautiful memorial stained glass windows in the current sanctuary. The original Task Force has now been converted to a Building Committee led by Ann Jervey, chair. Other committee members are John Bryant, Cara Butler, Becky Gillette, Cary Kirkland, Margaret Lewis, Bob Luck, Westbrook Parker, Lynn Powell, Susan Powell, Lynne Rabil, the Rev. Susan Reaves, Gaynelle Riddick, Nancy Turner and Kathy Worrell.

After interviewing six potential architects, the architect we chose for the project is Bruce Wardell of BWR Architects of Charlottesville. The first of many meetings in a process leading toward the development of a Master Plan for the church began on March 25, with the Building Committee’s first planning meeting with the architect. The entire HSUMC congregation was invited to interviews that were held on April 22

Subsequently, Town Hall meetings for the entire church will be held on May 13, May 26 and June 24. The Master Plan should be presented by June 24. Detailed architectural drawings will be developed over the summer with the final design for the facility presented in September. Final approval of the design will take place at a Charge Conference in accordance with church practices.

September will also mark the beginning of a capital campaign to raise money for the project. Lynn and Susan Powell will head the fundraising effort. Donations for memorial gifts will be led by Gaynelle Riddick. Some memorial gifts for the project have already been received, but funds still need to be raised. Anyone wishing to honor or memorialize a loved one with donations of money or specified items may contact the HSUMC church office at 562-3367.

It seems like a long time since the idea for a new church was born, but the future is a bright one for High Street and for all of Christianity. As we at High Street step forth in faith, we invite the community to pray for us in our efforts. Much has been said lately about the decline of Christianity in the United States. Surveys show that the percentage of people in the United States who profess Christianity has dropped 11 points. Despite this decline, 76 percent of Americans continue to follow the Christian faith, including those in our area. The congregation of High Street United Methodist Church welcomes everyone to visit or to join our expanding church and to join with us in our rededication to our mission — to honor God through worship; to serve God with time, talents, and gifts; to unite in Christian fellowship; to make disciplines; and to care for all God’s children.