Building a church home

JEWELL – Excitement was everywhere on Sunday when members of the Victory Christian Fellowship gathered for a brief groundbreaking ceremony for their new church building.

It’s been almost a year now since a nine-member task force at the Jewell church was formed to address overcrowding problems for the congregation. Their recommendation was evident Sunday as the first spades of dirt for a new church were turned.

The congregation has outgrown the small, traditional church building on Johnson Street where they have been meeting since forming in 2000. And now both levels of the building are overflowing on Sunday mornings. The sanctuary is just too crowded.

“In a smaller space you feel cramped,” said Ernest Amstalden, pastor at Victory Christian Fellowship. “This will give us an opportunity to reach out, and the new building will be accessible.”

Bud Wood, chairman of the task force, said his committee investigated all options as they looked at opportunities for the congregation.

“We looked at the existing building, other buildings in Jewell, and buildings in other towns. We turned every stone to check,” he said. “We decided that building new was the best option.”

Once the congregation approved the recommendation of the task force, planning began. The 60- x 105-foot structure will be aluminum construction with brick facing. Dakin Construction of Boone is the contractor. The sanctuary will seat 300. “Everyone is very excited about this,” said Ken Keene, another task force member. “It will give us three times as much space as the old building.”

The congregation already owned a former nursing home a few blocks from their church, which has been remodeled into classrooms, meeting space, and a fellowship hall that sees a lot of use by the active congregation. The task force determined it was not suitable to add on to it or remodel for a new church.

Two residential lots across the street from what’s known as The Center were purchased. Now used for parking, the corner lots will soon see a new church structure going up. The Center, built in 1960, will continue to be used as it is now, with some additional remodeling likely once the church is complete. The building plan has a sanctuary, a lobby, an office, and a classroom.

The building will come from Sukup Construction of Sheffield. Church members will do most of the inside finish work. Pews for the new sanctuary ended up being an ecumenical effort, as St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Webster City donated 42 pews to the Jewell church that were no longer needed in Webster City. Both the pastor and Wood remarked that the city of Jewell has worked closely with the congregation to get the project underway.

Fundraising for the new building went smoothly. “When we started, people were hesitant because they thought this is wasn’t realistic and that we couldn’t do it,” remarked Wood, who lives in the Webster City area. “But in three weeks we had all the money raised that we needed; not pledges, money donated from members. We will have no debt. We didn’t want this to be a burden to our congregation.”

“This is an opportunity for the congregation as a whole to be part owner of the project,” Amstalden commented about the congregation’s ownership, excitement, and involvement in the building project. “This is not the project for the elders of the church, and I think that’s important.” The congregation, which generally sees about 140 in Sunday worship, has members from a wide area in Hamilton county and beyond. Ages run from babies to 80s.

As for when the new church will be ready for use, Wood reported with a smile that the pastor says they will be in by Thanksgiving. It’s an ambitious timeline, but such challenges don’t seem to stop this ambitious, dedicated congregation.