Au Gres church to expand
Au GRES — The St. John Lutheran Church, off of North Court Street in Au Gres, is moving forward with a proposal to expand the building, adding a dedicated sanctuary section in the process.
According to Pastor Fred Cordts, the groundbreaking will take place after services on Sunday, June 24, around 10:15 a.m.
Cordts said the current church building was constructed in 1994, and the idea of expanding it has existed for some time, but serious discussions only started in 2011, during the congregation’s centennial celebrations.
The expansion is primarily to add a sanctuary space for the congregation to meet and hold services, along with a larger narthex, or foyer, for members to visit with other parishioners. This would also free up the room that services are currently held in, which is actually a multipurpose space where the church holds activities.
“We can use that area for community outreach,” Cordts said, adding that groups meet there now, and the church holds movie nights there. “We want to expand on that, and not having to pick up chairs every time after services, it’s easier on us.”
Cordts said the sanctuary would feature traditional pews from Holland Church Furniture and potentially some removable chairs for a maximum seating capacity of 165. While he expects the regular congregation to only be around 120 people or so, he explained that people are more comfortable when they have some space to move around, save for major church services like Christmas or Easter.
“People feel more comfortable when you have 30 percent extra seating capacity,” Cordts said. “Plus, you need more seating for large funerals.”
The removable chairs would also be helpful, he said, when the church hosts visiting choir groups, musical programs, contemporary worship programs, and other events in the sanctuary.
The expansion would also include a vestry, for the storage of vestments and liturgy, and a sacristy, where the pastor can rinse in a special sink to prepare for services. The church lacks either of these for the moment. Cordts said the church is also planning a new 50-foot bell tower, where the church bell could ring for services in a more visible location.
The bell tower, coupled with a large cross on the expanded section itself, should make the building more visible and prominent, Cordts said, which would be helpful for people unsure of its location.
In contrast with the current structure, the expanded section should have a more traditional appearance, Cordts said.
“It will be a more traditional church setting, with the arches and such,” Cordts said. “In the 1960s-70s there was a move for modern church design, so this is a return to a more traditional worship.”
Following that example, Cordts said stained glass windows from the original, pre-1994 church building that have been in storage for years will find a new home on the expanded section, where they will be sandwiched between weatherproof frames and plexiglass. Some smaller stained glass windows from the old church are currently set in the existing structure that way, he said, but some larger ones were simply being held until a new home was constructed.
The project ran into a snag when the project management company, F.H. Martin Construction out of Warren, informed the church’s planning and building committee the costs were higher than expected. Cordts said the higher costs were brought before the congregation June 17 to see whether or not the church should move forward, and in a 69-1 vote, the construction was voted to go ahead with the higher price.
Cordts said the money all came from donations from the community and a pledge drive.
Cordts hoped to see the expansion completed by October for the church’s ox roast.