Michiana Church of Christ hosts ground breaking for new chapel
Published 8:00 am Tuesday, June 16, 2015
In spite of the overcast conditions above their heads and the muddy terrain beneath their feet, the over 50 members of the Michiana Church of Christ assembled outside the church Sunday afternoon were as cheerful as they’ve ever been.
The church hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of its new building in the vacant lot next to its current facility near the intersection of Prairie Ronde and Railroad streets. Several members of the church, as well others closely involved with the upcoming construction project, joined Pastor Justin Shepard, shovels in hand, in officially overturning the first patch of soil on the construction site.
The church pastor opened Sunday’s ceremony by thanking the parishioners and other community members that made the possible building of the new 9,000 square foot church, which will include a worship area that can seat up to 300 people. Among those he thanked were the members of the Solomon Foundation, who provided a $750,000 loan to fund the construction of the new sanctuary.
“We are congregation of 100 plus, residing in an economically depressed area,” Shepard said. “[The foundation] believes in us.”
The construction of the facility will be handled by crews with Warsaw’s Ideal Construction, for a discounted rate of $85 per square foot, Shepard said. Once building officially kicks off, crews should take around four months before having the new church completed and ready for opening.
Russell Johnson, vice president of the foundation, was in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony as well, leading the others in a prayer commemorating this landmark achievement for the Dowagiac church.
“We believe churches like this congregation can make the difference in the lives of thousands of families,” Johnson said, following the ground breaking.
Johnson also praised the leadership of the church’s pastor, who guided his congregation through such a difficult project at an age where many senior clergy members are content to coast into retirement, he said.
“He [Shepard] wants to finish strong,” Johnson said. “This church is committed toward leaving a legacy.”
Sunday was an emotional experience for many of the Church of Christ members standing outside the grounds that day — especially for Church Elder Gene Ellis, who founded the Dowagiac church back in 1981. Sticking with his church through tough times through the last several decades, it was an exciting experience for him to witness the next evolution of the institution he has devoted so much of his life too, he said.
“This event is 35 years in the making,” Ellis said. “It means that we are serious about helping Dowagiac, and helping more people find Jesus.”