St. Michael Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wellington recently opened its long-planned new chapel, allowing some leg room for the growing congregation.
The church, located at 1925 Birkdale Drive, held a dedication worship service for the newly constructed sanctuary Sunday, May 20, where Bishop Ed Benoway of the Florida Bahamas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America preached and presided at communion.
The new chapel, which can accommodate about 150 people comfortably, is a dramatic switch from the converted five-unit condominium that has been the congregation’s home since 1988.
“We were a little squeezed over at the old sanctuary,” Pastor Marjorie Weiss told the Town-Crier. “The attempt to add a second worship to deal with that squeeze did not work out well, and at the same time the congregation was hoping to build a new sanctuary.”
The congregation went through its first fund drive from 2000 to 2003 and raised about $320,000, Weiss said. At the time, they were not able to get the loan they needed to build the sanctuary, so they built the infrastructure including the parking lot and sprinklers.
A second fund drive from 2006 to 2008 raised about $340,000.
“We continued to receive funds toward the building fund,” Weiss said. “Along the way, we really felt like we were constantly chasing the building because the prices continued to go up.”
Ironically, the real estate downturn was a blessing for St. Michael, which had the money in hand and a buyer’s market for development.
“The cost of building structures went down, and we also contracted with a company, Royal Concrete Concepts, which prefabs the walls,” Weiss said. “That reduced the cost quite a bit, to have the walls prefabbed, and they just brought them in with cranes and lowered them into place.”
In addition to the sanctuary, the building has nursery and choir rooms, as well as a large foyer or narthex separated from the sanctuary by doors.
Weiss said the narthex was built large in order to give people talking space, which they did not have in the old chapel. “We set it up so we can have our coffee hour here following worship,” she said.
The sanctuary is also equipped with an audio-visual room and large viewing screens on either side of the altar. They still use paper programs, but the church plans to use the screens more and more.
“It’s not the kind of thing we wanted to hit the people with all of a sudden,” Weiss said. “We’ve begun to use them to put the lessons up there. A woman who just joined the congregation said, ‘Oh, I love them up there.’ She said she never could read them in the bulletin.”
There are also monitors in the narthex and the nursery.
The church held another fundraiser to purchase chairs for the sanctuary at a cost of $40,000. The chairs give the sanctuary more flexibility than traditional church pews or theater-style seats.
“Pretty soon we’re going to move some of the chairs out and put it more like worship in the round because we don’t have as much attendance in the summer,” Weiss said. “That way, it will be more intimate.”
The church is still using the old altar and pulpit, but eventually they will be replaced.
The cross above the altar, one outside the building, the piano for the sanctuary, as well as tables and a credenza in the narthex were all donated.
“We had a lot of people who decided they wanted to contribute toward special items,” she said. “They did it in memory of people. Eventually we’re going to have some sort of recognition wall or plaque to honor all of those special donations.”
For more information, visit the church’s web site at www.stmichaelelc.com or call the church office at (561) 793-4999.