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MORE THAN BRICKS

Carpenter Justin Dykes of Maxwell Construction Company works on the renovation project at First United Methodist Church Monday afternoon. | Andrew Garner/Atmore Advance

Carpenter Justin Dykes of Maxwell Construction Company works on the renovation project at First United Methodist Church Monday afternoon. | Andrew Garner/Atmore Advance

FUMC renovating sanctuary, education building

More than bricks.

That’s the First United Methodist Church of Atmore’s theme as its church sanctuary is in the middle of a six-month renovation project to make it look good as new.

“We’re undergoing a major renovation,” Gabby Dortch, who is speaking on behalf of the congregation, said.

Back in mid-January, Maxwell Construction Company began construction on the sanctuary. At present, the pews are gone, the chancel and choir areas are being renovated and the balcony is gutted.

Dortch said the original pews will be refinished because of their original design; the choir loft and chancel areas will be extended to make them larger; the walls will be painted a new color; and the original lights hanging from the ceiling will stay. Additionally, the floors will be sanded and carpet will be reinstalled for the aisles leading to the chancel area. Later on, the church’s narthex will be renovated as well.

“Anytime you’re remodeling, you discover something new,” Dortch said.

When construction began and walls started to be torn away, a brick wall was discovered behind the choir loft at the front of the church.

FUMC Chairman of Trustees Keith Castleberry said the church loves the brick wall so much, that it’s going to stay.

“We were like, why did they cover that up?” Castleberry said. “We changed our plans, and instead of putting up sheetrock, we’re going to leave the wall.”

Dortch said the idea to renovate the sanctuary was conceived in 2013. A committee, with the help of a church member’s daughter, came up with the concept and new design of the sanctuary.

With a design in place, the next phase was raising the funds to complete the project.

Castleberry said once the sanctuary is complete, another renovation project will begin on the education building.

He said the whole project is going to cost at least $500,000.

“For years we said we’ll get to it,” Castleberry said about the renovation of the sanctuary. “Finally, we got to a point to get things done.”

FUMC Pastor Dr. Debora Bishop said the renovation of the sanctuary is quite exciting for the church, not only for present members, but for the future generations that will come afterward.

Across the board, Bishop said the fundraising effort has been tremendous.

“Every member of the congregation has given toward the renovation project, whether it be small or large gifts,” she said. “For all of us, this is more than bricks.”

Bishop said the project, in a way, is a way of life for the church because of the wide support it has gotten, adding that the future generation will not take on the renovation debt.

Every Sunday, worship is being held in the fellowship hall.

Castleberry said while the church can’t wait to see the finished product in the sanctuary, worshipping in the fellowship hall has been a nice change of scenery.

“Nobody sits in their assigned seats,” he said. “Some folks are saying we don’t want to go back to the sanctuary.

“Everybody is excited,” he said.