Faith from the ground up: Demolition begins on site of future Dowagiac church
Published 8:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2014
While the demolition of an old building first thing in the morning isn’t an unusual sight in the city, the tear down of the old Securit Building at the corner of Railroad and Prairie Ronde attracted a bit of a crowd Monday morning.
Crews with Merrill Excavating began tearing down the former factory at 9 a.m. on Monday, while members of the Michiana Church of Christ next door looked on. The church is paying for the demolition, as it plans to use the space the
building currently occupies to construct a new, larger facility for its members.
The church purchased the land from former owners Clayton and Shirley Wiker last June for a single dollar.
“They were moving their operation and a lot of their equipment to a new building, leaving this one vacant,” said Justin Shepard, the minister of Church of Christ. “I had told them before that we needed to build a new church for our congregation, so it worked out for both of us.”
The church has been seeking space for a larger building for a number of years, as the current membership has blossomed past the capacity their current structure can comfortably provide, Shepard said.
The clergy looked at possibly purchasing the land around McKinley Elementary School and the property currently occupied by the Timbers of Cass County before coming to an agreement with the Wikers.
As part of the deal, the church agreed to cover demolition costs of both the factory and a nearby abandoned home, which they also purchased for $1. In the fall, the church managed to raise $35,000 for the work through donations from its members and others.
“We’re not a wealthy church at all,” Shepard said. “But we had a ‘Great Day of Giving’ in September, and we raised $13,000 in a single day. It was amazing.”
The demolition work is the next step in the church’s plans to create a larger place of worship for its 120 parishioners, Shepard said. The current chapel was built 33 years ago, and only has seating for 95 people, the minister said.
“I first came to this church 13 years ago,” Shepard said. “There were 9 people who attended my first Sunday service, and the church was going to close.”
Since then, the church has been forced to have multiple services in order to accommodate its burgeoning membership. However, the new chapel will have seating for 300 people, which obviates the need for that setup, Shepard said.
“We’re all looking forward to worshipping together again,” said Nanette Schuur, a longtime member of the church.
Demolition of the old factory should take a little over a week, Shepard said. However, the church won’t begin construction of the new building until the fall at the earliest, he said.
However, for Shepard, there was a sense of satisfaction just in seeing the project progress to this point, he said.
“We’ve been waiting for this,” he said. “This hard winter kept pushing this back, so it’s very exciting to see things move forward.”