New walls, new faith

Saturday, July 8, 2006
The new addition to St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau. (Diane L. Wilson)

Friendliness. Accessibility. Fellowship.

Members involved with the recent building expansion of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church kept those three qualities in mind when they began planning last April.

Foremost in their minds also were two Bible verses: Ecclesiastes 3:3, "... a time to tear down and a time to build up," and from the book of Jude, "Build yourselves up in faith and pray in the spirit," says the Rev. Paul Short, pastor of St. Andrew's.

The Rev. Paul Short had bigger elevators put into the addition of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau.

"We were not only concerned with building a new building," Short said, "but building ourselves up in faith and prayer."

Fourteen months from the beginning of construction, the new fellowship hall and education building have nearly doubled the size of the original church, which has a membership of between 800 and 900.

Those involved with the expansion made sure the building was welcoming and accessible. Canopies over the entrances protect people from inclement weather.

The main entrance is controlled by a sensor that automatically opens a door when an adult in a wheelchair -- or a small child who would struggle with a heavy door -- approaches. An adult in a wheelchair can zoom right in and immediately enter a large elevator that goes upstairs to the fellowship area and sanctuary.

A special area for babies and toddlers has been moved upstairs to the main level. The two adjoining rooms are fully equipped and professionally staffed. The room set aside for infants has a "modesty shield" in place for nursing mothers and a washer and dryer.

The Rev. Paul Short demonstrated the new automated door designed to help the handicapped and small children enter St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau.

Classrooms for children are in an area decorated with child-related paintings by member Christine Melton and two assistants. In one of the Sunday school classrooms is a mural of Noah's ark painted by Vicki Outman.

"It's a very-child friendly area," Melton said.

Many classrooms have a wall that can be opened to expand into an adjoining room. A room where brides prepare for their weddings has a full-length mirror in an inner room. In the outer room is a fireplace for additional coziness. The room can also be used for families to gather at funerals or to celebrate happy milestones, Short said. It will also serve as a board room.

In the library, floor-to-ceiling shelves cover an entire wall.

All rest rooms are large and handicapped-equipped, except for one. A special restroom for children has child-size fixtures for their comfort and ease.

Large, comfortable gathering areas make it easy for people to mingle outside the sanctuary in the new fellowship hall. Three new 8-foot-square skylights let the sun shine in on the new mossy green walls and carpet. Short said he wasn't sure about the wall color when he first saw the paint sample.

"I thought it was going to look institutional," he said.

Instead, it looks earthy, natural, relaxing -- an area where people want to gather and have coffee after services.

Large plasma TV screens are scattered along walls throughout the building displaying announcements of interest to parishioners. Much of the renovation project has a high-tech influence, Short said. In nearly every classroom is a built-in projector and a screen that -- with the flick of a button -- lowers itself from the ceiling. Outside, a new sign identifying St. Andrews' also has an LED screen at the bottom that scrolls out messages and announcements to motorists stopped on Kingshighway waiting for the Cape Rock Drive traffic light to change.

All the while the renovation was going on, the congregation endured months of dust and noise, replacing restrooms with portable toilets, and general inconvenience without complaint or relocation, Short said. They also pledged and donated the money to pay for it. The late Ron Wittmer was the building committee chairman, followed by Jim Daume. When the addition is finished, Robert Barrett, chairman of the board of church property will take over the responsibility for its maintenance.

St. Andrew's congregation decided it was "time to tear down and build up" around the same time the city did. It worked out well for both city and church when the city rerouted Kingsway and dead-ended into a cul-de-sac near church property.

"We were ripping out a building and a parking lot," Short said. "The two things worked very well together. It was a great partnership."

Accessibility and fellowship also reach out from the congregation to encourage the community to come to St. Andrew's, Short said. In August a men's fraternity will meet in one of the rooms, and CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training will also take place there.

It's building up of a new addition, a fellowship of believers and a relationship to the community.

"We hope the building reflects the one we serve," Short said.

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