While many people were sequestered during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, one church congregation kept working to transform their property into a functional facility and strengthened their members’ bond in the process.
The property, located on the corner of Marion Blvd. and Cleveland Street, has been used by several churches previously. The Forest Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leased it last year and now calls it their spiritual home.
Branch President C. Edison Powell said the property has undergone a rebirth through renovation, which provided peace and clarity through difficult times.
It was fitting that the renovation coincided with the pandemic, providing context to the church members’ effort to endure many challenges, Powell said.
“This project was a real blessing because it gave people a purpose and focus during the pandemic. It was a guiding light during a time of anxiety and fear,” Powell said. The work was on the physical building, “but the service brought us closer to God and overcame any doubt that might have rooted during the pandemic.”
The chapel renovations included building a new rostrum, updating the bathrooms, adding new paint and carpet, staining the pews, and replacing the windows and foyer flooring. The fellowship hall work included several similar cosmetic improvements. The classroom building received the most attention. “That was a complete reconstruction. We replaced almost everything inside,” Powell said.
Most of the renovation work was done by members of the church of all ages with help from several volunteers from the community, culminating in over 1,500 volunteer hours.
“Through this experience, we realized that the property was helping us build our people, instead of the other way around. Because of our effort through the renovation, we became stronger in our faith and closer as a congregation. Now every time we come to church, this new version of the property reminds us of the new versions of ourselves,” Powell said.
Members will share their faith and the results of their renovation with the public through an open house on Nov. 14 from 2 until 5 p.m. at 818 Marion Blvd. The event will offer property tours with various stations providing brief information about the renovation and the church itself. The tours will conclude in the Fellowship Hall with light refreshments and various displays.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a worldwide organization with more than 16.6 million members. It was restored in 1830 and recently hosted its 191st annual general conference.
“We are a Christian-based church that focuses on the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. We also use another testament of Jesus Christ, called the Book of Mormon, which proclaims God’s revelations to His prophets on the American continent between 600 B.C. and 400 A.D.,” Powell said.
This month, the 75-member Forest Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will celebrate its five-year anniversary. Previous to meeting on the renovated property, the local members met in a private residence and were connected with a Brandon congregation.
“We now have room to grow and invite the community to join us for Sunday worship and Wednesday night activities,” Powell said.