By CHARLEY WILKISON
A new Worship and Wellness Center is being constructed on acreage just a few yards east of the historic downtown United Methodist Church. The building committee anticipates being completely finished with the first phase of the annex by Easter Sunday, next spring.
“This will give us a new larger facility to spread the good news,” said John Conquest, chairman of the building committee.
By the earliest records, the Liberty Hill Methodist congregation officially organized itself in 1854, but since 1870 they have worshipped and served their community from the simple stone church on Church Street in the heart of Liberty Hill. That’s not going to change.
As the congregation anticipates the exploding population growth that has enveloped the area, they remain committed to keeping their church and their related activities centrally connected.
The new center will have 1,200 square feet of space on the ground floor. When finally completed, it will be a two-story structure with more room for Sunday School classes and other related educational programs.
“Our church has grown to the point that we are in standing room only during special services,” said Conquest.
To accommodate the growth, the church has divided its Sunday worship into three morning services.
The new building will be home to such events as the 5th Quarter, a youth event after home football games, Vacation Bible School, and the community food bank.
It will also be a location for Christian concerts and plays, as well as a launching pad for mission groups like the United Methodist Army, and Mission Monday, as well as a local senior group “Grandies for Christ.” The building will also serve the general public as an emergency center in case of a disaster.
The property for the Worship and Wellness Center was purchased a decade ago when the congregation realized the growth in the Liberty Hill area was headed off the charts.
The first additional building phase was completed in 1993 when the current education building and nursery were added onto the east
side of the original building. After the new center is completed, that building will house the church offices and allow space for other ministries that are currently off-site across the street.
“Within three to five years, we hope to be completely finished with this new structure,” said Conquest.
Future plans are already on the drawing board for a new sanctuary within the next decade.
Before a fire destroyed the original Methodist Church in the mid-1800’s, it was a three-story structure that also served as the public school as well as the local Masonic Lodge.
Building Committee members say they are extremely aware that they are building on historic ground. In the end, all of the new planned structures will reflect the architectural theme of the original church.
“We (the building committee) are very mindful of where we are and where we are going. We are working hard to meet all of the needs and requests of the congregation,” Conquest said.
Conquest, a civil engineer, heads the building committee of church members who are enjoying being entrusted with the balancing act of meeting the needs of a growing congregation while keeping an eye
on the past simplicity of the original church’s architectural charm.
On a recent afternoon, Conquest and Jerry Whitworth stood atop what will soon be the foundation of the new church facility. They looked across the church yard where once horses and buggies carried folks to Sunday services, weddings and funerals. They talk a bit about the history and what the old church has meant to the community over the century.
“We are looking forward to all the new faces that will come and be a part of this church because of this new facility,” says Whitworth, with a big smile.
The Chamber has recently redesigned its website, www.libertyhillchamber.org, to better serve its business members. The Chamber is offering free memberships to businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals through December 2011.