‘It’s nice to see life in this building again’

Photos by Tom Rivers: North Point Chapel on Sunday had the grand opening of the sanctuary at the former United Methodist Church building. The United Methodists now hold services at Christ Church, an Episcopal congregation on Main Street.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 December 2017 at 11:44 am

United Methodists in Albion who left building that was condemned see new congregation in sanctuary

ALBION – Several long-time United Methodists attended a church service on Sunday at the former home of the congregation. The United Methodists moved out of the building two years ago, fearing the building was unsteady and unsafe.

Mike Outten, pastor of North Point Chapel, delivers the sermon on Sunday.

They have since been sharing a building, Christ Church, which is owned by the Episcopalians.

A new church, North Point Chapel, bought the United Methodist site and discovered that the building is structurally sound. Engineers who said the building was in danger of collapse missed two support steel beams in the attic. Those beams were buried in insulation. The beams mean a million-dollar repair isn’t needed after all. The Village of Albion gave North Point a certificate of occupancy to reopen the sanctuary.

United Methodists are happy the building has been spared and is being reused as a church. But there is a sting in knowing they left the site when they didn’t need to go.

“It was heart-breaking,” Cheryl Karcz, a long-time attendee, said about the church leaving the site and putting it up for sale.

Karcz started attending the church with her family about 15 years ago. The church served as a meeting place for her sons’ Boy Scout troop. Some United Methodists attended the church for multi-generations, Karcz said.

The daunting burden of fixing the building “pulled the life out of the church,” she said.

The church’s worship band leads about 75 people in singing on Sunday. Most of the songs were contemporary Christian worship music and well as a traditional hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”

On Sunday, Karcz sat in a pew and was impressed with North Point, which is a Baptist congregation. The church has repainted the sanctuary, removed the wooden support beams, and reconfigured the pulpit by enlarging the platform for a worship band.

“I’m glad it didn’t end up being bulldozed,” she said about the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sarah Outten, 14, leads in the singing on Sunday. She is the daughter of the church pastor.

Her son David Karcz works with Babcock Construction.

“It’s great to see the building repurposed and saved,” David Karcz said. “There are so many buildings and barns that have fallen down. The biggest thing is someone is still using this building.”

Gail Ebbs also returned to the church with her daughter Renee, their first time back in about two years. They had been regular attendees at the church for about 25 years.

They entered the building and noted the steps still squeaked leading to the sanctuary. They missed many of the familiar faces from over the years. But they noticed North Point has drawn several young families.

“It’s nice to see life in this building again,” Ebbs said. “They have young families and young people. That’s what we need: young people believing in God.”

Ebbs said “it hurts” to be back in the church after the years-long anguish over the building.

“It’s a shame,” she said.

North Point celebrated the reopening of the sanctuary on Sunday.

Mike Outten, pastor of North Point, reflected on the legacy of the United Methodist congregation in Albion. The United Methodists founded a church society in Albion in 1830, built a church in 1860 and a did a significant reconstruction in 1914.

“In the 1800s, the United Methodists were on fire for God,” Outten said on Sunday at the sanctuary of the church.

Mike Outten preaches on Sunday. The church added two display screens for songs and other church announcements.

North Point started about two years ago as a Bible study. It then held services at the Arnold Gregory Office Complex. In April, it acquired the United Methodist Church building and a neighboring building for only $38,000. The properties had been on the market for more than a year and drew little interest.

Outten owned his own construction company. He thought the church was solid. However, he believed the engineering reports were accurate. He didn’t think it needed a million-dollar repair. He thought running rods in the roof, helping to hold the building together and support the roof, would take care of the problem.

Mike Outten and the worship team welcome people to the church on Sunday.

Outten was prepared to have steel cables run up high through the sanctuary, tying them together with a turnbuckle. It would have detracted from the beauty of the sanctuary, but would have provided the needed structural support.

When Outten and his son, who now runs the construction business, made a test hole in the ceiling in late September, they discovered the two steel rods, supporting the roof and walls. That meant a big repair wasn’t needed.

Outten has welcomed the United Methodists to return to their building and be part of the North Point ministry.

“I want nothing more than North Point Chapel to be a shining light in the community,” he said.

North Point has its Sunday services at 10:30 a.m. It also holds “Celebrate Recovery” meetings on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. It is looking to start a Kids’ Club on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. beginning in January and a Friday evening teen ministry in 2018, as well as new Life Groups with Bible study and fellowship. For more on North Point, click here.

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