By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — The effort to transform the former Apple Grove restaurant into a vibrant new home for the Medina United Methodist Church has slowed in progress as the church seeks the financial boost needed to finish the project.
A small but committed group of church members has continued working on the West Center Street building after contracted work was shut down in May, with plans to re-launch the final three-to-four months of interior work once financing is lined up.
”We’ve hunkered down,” Reverend Tony Hipes said while walking through the future church Wednesday morning. “We’ve done a lot of work ourselves — putting in sweat equity.”
Hipes, who was installed at the church in July, said MUMC needs around $200,000 to finish the remaining work. The church has spent more than $700,000 on demolition, renovation and infrastructure since purchasing the building in October 2010.
The challenge has brought Hipes’ flock closer together. Attendees weekly prayer service at the church’s longtime West Center Street home are dedicating an increasing share of their petitions for spiritual assistance in delivering the needed funding, and a monthly “noisy can” offering chipping in towards the ultimate goal.
”It’s been a blessing for our congregation to step up and take ownership of this project,” Hipes said. “We’re praying that we’d have an angel investor land on our doorstep.”
Inside the former restaurant, which was last occupied five years ago, are signs of an unfinished but attainable dream.
The interior is shielded from the elements. Many of the rough-ins for plumbing, electricity and heating are installed, although the rooms they sit in are uncarpeted and unadorned.
The high ceilings that dominates the fellowship hall, and a large portion of the middle of the building’s rooms are still wood frames. Ceiling equipment, donated by the Buffalo Science Museum and the Bank of Castile’s Medina branch, is partially installed in the offices; much more sits in neat piles.
Matt Brueckner, who heads the church’s building committee, said the initial funding for the project ran out in August after costs from critical infrastructure improvements piled up.
”We had to replace more of the building than we expected,” Brueckner said, noting rotted walls that had to be replaced and antiquated drainage and sewer systems that had to be fixed. That was in addition to the 30 dumpsters of debris and removed materials that were taken away early in the overhaul. “We foresaw (the funding issues) because of those problems.”
Brueckner said the project’s contractors were all forewarned about the stoppage and paid for the remaining work before the funds ran dry.
For now, the work is volunteer-driven. Iroquois Job Corps students have hung drywall in the grand room that connects the sanctuary, offices, kitchen and children’s areas. Groups as large as 20 have come from the church to complete the to-do list tasks, led by Hipes’ wife Judy — their next big task is painting.
The “Church in the Grove” cannot open until all the work is done, but church leaders are hopeful despite the unknowns of funding and time. Hipes noted the return of some members who left after disagreeing with the move. Around 70 people now attend the weekly church services.
Bill Arnett, a MUMC congregant for 27 years and a frequent volunteer for the project, said the church’s community is yearning to see the project completed.
”We’ve had people nearly every day saying they’ll come,” Arnett said inside the bare sanctuary Wednesday. “I think people are waiting for us. This place will be full.”
The effort to move the church to a modern, friendly and accessible home comes as the regional United Methodist Church conference is undergoing a revitalization process that is examining how the church serves its community.
”We’re examining who we are as a church and a community,” Hipes said. “We’re seeking to understand our ministry to Medina and ourselves.”
Hipes knows that work will be joined by the work at the site when the right time comes.
”The church is getting here,” Hipes said. “We’ll be here when God wants it to be here.”Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.