First United Methodist Church of Arlington Heights Completes “Place-Lift,” Returns to Euclid Avenue Campus
March 18 ceremony formally dedicates refurbished sanctuary
Marking the end of a nine-month renovation process, First United Methodist Church of Arlington Heights (FUMCAH) will celebrate the dedication of its newly refurbished sanctuary with a March 18 ceremony led by Bishop Hee-Soo Jung of the Northern Illinois Conference and District Superintendent Rev. Oscar Carrasco.
The dedication ceremony will be part of FUMCAH’s regular 9:30 a.m. Sunday worship service, which will also include special music, an engaging word from Lead Pastor Rev. Bonnie Beckonchrist, and Holy Communion.
“No one person accomplished this,” said Beckonchrist. “Hundreds of congregants have been part of making this project happen. A Long Range Planning Committee led to a Future Facilities Task Force which led to a Building Committee which led to a Capitol Campaign Committee which led to generous givers. So, of course this dedication ceremony will be a grand celebration of the power of vision and a commitment to the future.”
The renovation marks the first phase of a three-part master plan for the Euclid Avenue campus and the existing church building, which was built in three phases between 1955 and 1969. Among the most notable improvements completed in the first phase was a complete refurbishment of the sanctuary. Previously oriented with pews facing the south end of the sanctuary, the space was turned 180 degrees and a balcony removed so that congregants now face the three-panel (triptych) stained-glass window at the north end of the sanctuary. Visible from Euclid Avenue and a well-known landmark in the Arlington Heights community, the window has long been a source of “drive-by” outreach for the church, and members and staff are pleased it will now be a focal point during worship services.
“The window is vibrant and dramatic, breath-taking while rich in symbolism,” said Linda Hall, a congregant at FUMCAH. “It will provide an amazing sensory addition to our worship celebrations.”
A new chancel directly in front of the stained-glass window is designed to highlight FUMCAH’s many music ministries. Built-in risers to one side, with a grand piano on the floor directly in front, will provide seating for the Chancel Choir; ample floor space and wide steps leading up to the chancel will accommodate children’s groups, soloists and small ensembles. The previous chancel, now a platform at the rear of the sanctuary, houses the console for the church’s 29 rank Casavant pipe organ and English hand bell tables, and also provides space for overflow seating.
Additionally, a new seating configuration combines traditional pews and individual chairs, giving the space the flexibility to accommodate a variety of concerts, recitals, speakers and performances.
“Our facilities have always been shared by the community,” said Melinda Kirby, FUMCAH’s business manager. “We house the village’s largest NAEYC -accredited preschool and open our doors to a myriad of community organizations. It was important to us to ensure our new sanctuary and other parts of the building would continue to serve not only our congregation, but also the many groups that regularly make use of our church building.”
Kirby noted that community groups who regularly use the church facility include: PADS; scouting; Depression Bipolar Support Alliance; Narcotics Anonymous; English and Russian language groups; Gamblers Anonymous; Korean language group; UpS for DownS Parent Support Group; La Leche League; TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly); Topics on TOT Support, a home child care providers education and support group; Toastmasters International; Setting the Stage Children’s Theater Company; and the Illinois Brass Band.
Other improvements throughout the church made the facility fully accessible and ADA compliant. The sanctuary now offers accessible seating, with eight wheelchair cutouts in the new pew layout. Lower-level restrooms were all remodeled and two accessible, family-style restrooms were added. The renovation also replaced an outdated ramp into Friendship Hall with a lift, making the lower-level fellowship space ADA-compliant for the first time.
In the next phase of the master plan for the facility, the FUMCAH congregation plans to the FUMCAH congregation plans to complete a dramatic Welcome Center entrance and then move to the construction of a new Family Life Center which will include a gymnasium for sports and fitness ministries.
About First United Methodist Church of Arlington Heights
Celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2013, First United Methodist Church of Arlington Heights is the oldest congregation in the village of Arlington Heights. As a Reconciling Congregation, the church celebrates humanity’s diversity of age, racial and ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, special needs, socio-economic conditions, and marital status. Created in the image of God, all persons are worthy of God’s love and grace and welcomed into full participation in the life of the congregation