By HOWARD BALABAN firstname.lastname@example.org
Medina Journal-Register — The congregation of Medina’s United Methodist Church took a symbolic walk on Sunday down West Center Street.
The church at 222 West Center will soon go into “hibernation” as the congregants held their first service at the former Apple Grove on Sunday. Their former home will still be used temporarily by another locally-based religious organization. Eventually, United Methodist Church may look to sell its old building.
The complete overhaul of the Apple Grove began about five years ago with fundraising, and the congregation had “complete input” on the design, said Matt Bruckner, the project coordinator.
“The architect saw the inside before we started making any designs, and we were in planning for eight months before we were ready for any construction,” Bruckner said.
The Rev. Tony Hipes, who has been with church for about a year and a half, explained how construction started around the fall of 2011, shortly before he arrived.
“We had to shut it down in the spring of 2012 because we ran out of money, and then we restarted it this spring,” Hipes said. The majority of the funding for the project came from fundraising among the congregants, Hipes added, and the last phase of the project was aided by Medina Savings and Loan.
“Tim Moriarty, the president of Medina Savings and Loan, saw what we were doing here, saw what could be here,” Hipes said. “He cares about Medina.”
Sunday’s move down the street Hipes likened to a “soft opening” of a retail store. He said worship and prayer are important to the congregation and the it was the right time for the move.
“We brought so many elements to the new place,” Hipes added. “Many of our members walked them over.”
Bruckner said the new facility in the old building has “endless possibilities.” He noted the project became much more involved than anyone ever anticipated.
“The original thought was to just paint and carpet the building, but it needed a lot more work than that,” Bruckner said. “We took a lemon and made lemonade,” he chuckled.
Indeed, the Apple Grove is no longer recognizable as it now includes a church, multiple classrooms, a social hall, a small prayer chapel, a meeting room, and the church offices. The sandstone walls have been salvaged as part of the structure. Much of the wood was salvageable, too, with some going to Habitat for Humanity, and some being sold off. Some other parts of the building that were removed and replaced included metal and pipes. The Apple Grove’s well-known u-shaped bar was also sold.
Bruckner said the majority of the work was done by people of Orleans County “by people who knew what needed to be done.”
Hipes said the choice for United Methodist to move to the Apple Grove was an easy one, and the response of the congregation has been “fantastic.”
“There are at least 10 to 15 people here on a daily basis,” Hipes said.
For Hipes joined the congregation mid-project, he said he knew it was for a reason.
“In the past few weeks, especially, as we finished our new home, it became obvious why God sent me here,” Hipes said.
Bruckner agreed, adding, “He was definitely sent to us at the right time.”
As the finishing touches are put on the project, Bruckner and Hipes said they looked forward to seeing what the future holds for the church.
“We’re just beginning to dream here,” Bruckner said.
Added, Hipes, “We hope to make this a centerpiece of the community.”