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Albion church faces a lofty decision

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 August 2013 at 12:00 am

United Methodists face $1 million roof project

Photos by Tom Rivers – Trustees at the Albion United Methodist Church – Cathy Moore, Reid Cole and Marie Follett – are pictured in the choir loft this morning with the sanctuary in the background. The sanctuary roof is supported by fall timber beams that were installed last December as a temporary reprieve for fixing the roof.

ALBION – Reid Cole knows it would be a shock to the community if people passed by the Albion United Methodist Church building and saw a “For Sale” sign.

But it’s not out of question. He fears a demolition of the historic site also isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

The congregation of about 30 families has a difficult decision to make: to spend $1 million or more replacing the roof and rebuilding trusses on the church, or perhaps walking away from the structure at 19 North Platt St.

“We could be looking at anything from fixing the building to demolishing it,” Cole said after church this morning.

He is chairman of the church trustees. Besides the roof project, the church needs brick work and other minor repairs. The membership will meet this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. to try to reach a consensus on the future of the church building.

The United Methodist church is part of the Courthouse Square, a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. Eight Albion churches are part of the historic district.

The pipe organ at the United Methodist is one of several historical wonders inside the church that is part of the Courthouse Square, a district on the National Register of Historic Places. Eight churches are part of that district.

The Presbyterian and Pullman Memorial Universalist churches are also weighing significant repair projects. But none is nearly as costly at the situation at the United Methodist Church.

Last December, five tall timber beams went up inside the sanctuary of the church. They are helping to hold up the roof of the historic church at 19 North Platt St.

The temporary support columns got the church through the winter, and provide some time for the church to determine its next steps. But with winter again around the corner, church members believe they need to settle on a plan for the building.

The trusses are not properly supporting the roof, causing walls to shift and threatening the viability of the structure. The church was built in 1861 with an addition at 1914.

When the sanctuary was reoriented in 1914, church members at the time cut out the bottom support beams for the trusses. That has weakened the trusses, now jeopardizing the support system for the roof. Putting on a new roof with trusses would be $825,000, in the cheapest alternative. The mostly costly choice approaches $2 million, Cole said.

The church is seeking a $500,000 matching grant through the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation, a grant that requires a local match. The church would also have to front the money and wait to be reimbursed.

Cole said the church meeting Wednesday could include discussion about a capital campaign that would seek funds from the community, including people who don’t attend the church.

“We’d like to have a sense of the direction we need to go,” he said about Wednesday’s meeting.

Marie Follett is a silhouette next to the large stained-glass window in the sanctuary at the Albion First United Methodist Church.