By Susan Shinn
LANDIS ó When the members of Trinity Lutheran Church decided to build a new ministry center, their property was confined to a building with dimensions of 100 feet by 100 feet.
“That sounds like it would be a detriment,” says the Rev. Jarrod Lanning, Trinity’s pastor. “But it turned out to be a blessing.”
The 10,000-square-foot Vertie Lipe Center has a huge multipurpose hall with stage, commercial kitchen, classroom space and offices.
It also has a mezzanine level with 5,000 feet of unfinished space for future use.
“Right now,” Lanning says with a grin, “it’s the biggest attic in Landis. With everything that’s happening in this area, it’s time to be prepared.”
The center was dedicated Jan. 13, and has since been used for a reception honoring a former pastor, the Rev. C.P Fisher Jr. As a matter of fact, the multipurpose room is officially known as Fisher Hall in honor of C.P. and Martha Fisher and the entire Fisher family.
The complex is named for Vertie Lipe, a longtime member who died in 2007. While her family supported the project, she was not the major donor.
“We felt like she was a fitting representative of the heartbeat of this congregation,” Lanning says. “She was a faithful member. She loved God and she loved her church. The congregation wanted to honor her.”
The congregation has been anxious to resume its weekly Wednesday night fellowship, which has been on hiatus during the construction process.
“It’s been a key bonding point for the congregation,” he says of the weekly event, which features a free meal that’s open to the community, along with devotions.
The new building houses Lanning’s office as well as offices for the secretary and youth director.
The young children’s classroom is here, decorated in red and black to support South Rowan High School.
Sally Ervin-Mabry took photos of the youngest members of the congregations. They’re mounted on four posters, framing Bible verses.
Joe and Olivia O’Kelley point out their photos while hanging out in the room on a recent family night.
Joe runs through the multipurpose room in his socks, sliding across the floor.
“I’m hungry, hungry, hungry!” Olivia says.
The youth room is furnished with comfy black leather sofas and rockers and has multi-colored tiles on the floor.
“Whatever colors the youth groups want to paint these walls, it’ll match,” Lanning says.
There’s a note jotted on the white board, apparently from youth director Candice Carter. “OK guys, your stuff is all here. Take care of it ó watch the walls with the rockers. Enjoy as you learn about and serve God!”
A reading room and library features one of the old stained-glass windows from the main building. The adjoining parlor can be used for small meetings and gatherings, even visitations following funerals.
“I thought the building needed personality,” Lanning says as he strolls through each room. “They did a great job with a very modest budget.”
Mabry headed the decorating team, Lanning says. “But don’t put that in ó she’ll fuss at me.”
Lanning calls Rick O’Kelley’s position as building team leader “a divine appointment.”
“With the work that he’s done and the spirit in which he’s done it, we couldn’t be happier,” Lanning says. “It was his calling.”
O’Kelley is a bit more practical.
Here’s what really happened, he says: He skipped Family Night and ended up as building chairman.
The first question O’Kelley had, he says, was: “Who’s on my team?”
“I wasn’t going to do it without a good team.”
He had one.
Members included Brad Blume, who owns a sprinkler system company; Randy Crenshaw, a contractor and engineer; Bo Roberts, a retired architect; and Karen McKnight, a district director N.C Farm Bureau, who has overseen many building projects.
“Everybody had some type of construction background,” says O’Kelley, who works as a subcontractor.
At $1.8 million, this was no small project. Some items, such as the playground equipment, columbarium, sound equipment and kitchen equipment were paid for up front, O’Kelley notes.
O’Kelley checked in with Danny Miller, construction foreman with Crescent Construction, most mornings.
“Someone on the building team was here daily,” he says. “For the most part, it went pretty good. I was afraid there would be too many opinions and we wouldn’t get along, but we had no major problems ó just little piddly things you’re gonna have.”We’ve had huge support from the church, really and truly.”
Ollie McKnight, a member of the congregation since 1952, agrees.
“Everybody realized we had children coming up, and the old building was too small,” she says. “This was something we could leave our children.”
“I think we were all happy we were able to do it before some of us passed on,” Roberts says. “It’s something we’ve needed for a long time.
“Everybody from our generation down just leapt in. People you didn’t think would be involved were involved. Everybody just got right in with both hands and got the work done. Now, we just have to figure out the best use of the building.”
Lanning was a bit surprised to undertake such a program at the start of his ministry.
A former pharmacist, Lanning, 33, has served Trinity ó his first official call ó for 4 a years.
He says it you’d have told him he’d be in a building program at the beginning of his ministry ó “it would have been tempting to look at other options.”
But, he says, it’s been an exciting process ó and a little scary at the same time.
“How well the process went overall is an indication that someone else was in charge,” Lanning says. “God has moved in this congregation.”
Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Susan Shinn