During Sunday’s worship service at Surprise Christian Church, members spent five minutes looking at a slideshow of pictures of the new fellowship hall being constructed.
It took nearly 14 years for the building to come to fruition, but the rural church’s members can take pride in the fact that they helped make it happen.
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A few minutes after the slideshow, members gathered outside for a photo before taking their seats in the 2,640-square-foot building for the first time to enjoy a potluck dinner.
“Today, for the first time, we will eat together all in one room. Without stairs, this facility is accessible to all,” Pastor Rick Grant said.
“Most importantly, we thank God,” he said. “He gave us a vision, a will and a way. What was once a hope and a dream is now reality. There now stands a building as a testament to our faith in God, and we dedicate it to him.”
Groundbreaking for the facility was Jan. 3. The next month, Daviess County Metal Sales began construction.
People donated their time, labor, equipment and money to help keep the project moving forward and allow the building to be dedicated this past weekend.
“It’s like any project. If you don’t persevere and stay with it, then the enthusiasm wanes,” Grant said. “We were able to sustain it. … We had very few days where there wasn’t somebody here working, and then the rest of us had to fill in on volunteer labor.”
The cost of the fellowship hall came in at just under $114,000, including 12 new tables and 100 new chairs. Less than $8,000 came from the church’s general fund.
Grant then delivered the best news of all.
“This new building is debt-free,” he said, drawing applause from the congregation.
Ed Flynn, chairman of the church board, praised the work of Grant, Ellis Wells, vice chairman of the church board who helped with electrical work, and others who volunteered with the project.
“A year ago, nobody expected to build this building this year,” Flynn said. “It’s done. It’s paid for. It’s a reality. Without all of the volunteer help that was donated, there is no way this building could have been completed in this amount of time. With God, all things are possible.”
Grant said he liked being a part of the construction.
“Obviously, it’s a great joy to be done and to see the finished product, but I’m going to tell you, I probably had as much fun doing it because to me, it’s my way of serving God,” he said. “Yes, it benefits the Surprise congregation, but I’m called in service to God to do what I can.”
Along with the area for seating, the fellowship hall includes restrooms, a storage room, a mechanical room, two water fountains and a kitchen. The building is handicap-accessible and holds nearly 100 people.
Church gatherings and events used to be conducted in the basement, but some people weren’t able to go down the steep steps, forcing members to gather in separate areas.
The new fellowship hall is all on one level.
“It’s hard to imagine that we would be in a place like this because we were so used to being in the basement of the church,” said Matthew Morris, a deacon at the church. “It was always a hassle because we had people who couldn’t get downstairs, so they had to stay upstairs, and we would have to bring their food up to them and their drinks up to them. It’s definitely a huge improvement over what we’ve had in the past.”
Morris said the new building makes for a better environment.
“Sometimes, I felt like we were kind of inhibited on what we could do as far as together, especially since we had to separate people,” he said. “Now, we can all be in one space, so I think we’ll probably have more frequent get-togethers, which is a good thing.”
A wedding shower, a birthday party and a church gathering already are booked for the facility. A $50 deposit is required for rental, and that’s refunded if the building is cleaned up and the key is returned. The money also can be made as a freewill offering to the church.
Rentals currently are only being accepted for church members, but the future plans are to open it up for the community to use.
Plans also call for a parking lot and a multipurpose ball field to be added on the church property. Grant said he hopes to someday remodel the church’s basement to use either as a nursery, a youth area or for more classroom space.
The new fellowship hall marks the first construction on the church since 1963, when it was damaged by a storm.
The church was founded in 1893, and members met in a schoolhouse along State Road 258. Then in 1902, a church was built along North County Road 100W.
Growth in membership is one reason a new fellowship hall was needed. An average of 60 people attend Sunday services.
Morris said it has been exciting to see church membership increase.
“We’ve had years where our attendance was down,” he said. “But now, it’s like God is really moving, and he’s really doing something exciting here. For me personally it’s rewarding to see us go from kind of the low point to the high point. It’s really a neat thing to see.”
Grant said everyone keeping a positive attitude helped push the fellowship hall project forward. He even received encouraging words from former church members who have moved away but were a part of the talks of a new fellowship hall in the past.
“Some of them never dreamed there would ever come to be this,” he said. “I think that’s the joy. It doesn’t just bring joy to the people here now. It brings that really neat feeling to those that were a part of it years ago.”
Surprise Christian Church is at 6382 N. County Road 100W.
Sunday services include Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. and worship at 10:30 a.m.
For information, contact Pastor Rick Grant at 812-216-4180 or “like” Surprise Christian Church on Facebook.