Congregation to hold first service in new building

Congregation to hold first service in new building

MAHOMET — When New Beginnings Lutheran Church bought a new building in Mahomet, they didn't have to look far for workers to help with the renovations.

"We've got a lot of people with a lot of different skills," member Laura Magyar said. Volunteers have taken on an array of projects, from painting to putting up drywall, while others have taken responsibility for finding contractors for jobs like laying carpet or installing gutters.

The congregation plans to hold its first official service in the new building at 6 p.m. Sunday. All the renovation work probably won't be finished, but members plan to celebrate the milestone anyway.

"One way or another, we're going to have a church service here," member Ken Roth said.

The building, at the corner of Lincoln and Dunbar in downtown Mahomet, is best known locally as the "old Methodist church." The sanctuary portion was constructed in 1895, with several additions in the intervening decades.

After Mahomet United Methodist moved to its new location on South Mahomet Road, the building was the home of Mahomet Bible Church. When that congregation dwindled in size, members decided to sell the building to another church — and New Beginnings saw an opportunity.

The previous congregation left the building in good shape, Roth said.

The sanctuary still retains much of its turn-of-the-century feel, from the ornate woodwork to the painted medallions — showing a dove, an open Bible and a chalice — at the peaks of the ceiling. The ends of the pews are believed to be original, as well as the hymnal racks with their wrought-iron details.

The building's many distinctive stained-glass windows are also in great shape, thanks to the Plexiglass covers on the outside.

Members said that renovating the sanctuary and rehabbing the elevators for better handicapped-accessibility are their primary goals in the short term, but they hope to refurbish the basement and classroom areas as well.

Magyar said that the church has been averaging 80 or 90 people in attendance each week. New Beginnings got its start in late May, and members started meeting at Urbana Sportsman's Club on Sunday evenings. Now, the church also holds a meal, confirmation classes and small-group studies on Wednesday nights.

"It's really special," Magyar said of the group's services.

"The Spirit is there," agreed member Mary Ellen Lawler. "You can't go and not feel uplifted."

The church recently became an official member of the North American Lutheran Church, which formed in 2010 after some congregations split from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American over allowing pastors to be in committed same-sex relationships.

New Beginnings was started by former members of the Lutheran Church of Mahomet, which held a vote on whether to leave ELCA this spring. That church ultimately opted to remain part of ELCA.

Other NALC churches in central Illinois and beyond are lending a hand to help New Beginnings. A church in Iowa donated a baptismal font and pulpit, and churches closer to home are "lending" New Beginnings their pastors on Sunday nights. A rotation of ministers from the area currently take turns preaching, and the church recently convened a call committee to find a full-time pastor.

The church hasn't undertaken any major fundraising. Donations and other assistance from members helped finance purchase of the building and the renovations.

Now, they're looking forward to their first service in their new space — and using their skills to spruce up the building.

"We've got some great talent within this church," Roth said.

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