The congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church, located on Reepsville Road in Vale, has been facing a dilemma for the past several years, a dilemma which will soon be solved thanks to a lot of planning and some fairly major construction.
The majority of the churchâ€™s Sunday school classes are held on the buildingâ€™s third floor, a problem for a number of church members, some elderly and others with disabilities, who have difficulty making it up the stairs.
â€œWeâ€™ve been talking about a way to gain access for a number of years,â€ said John Locke, minister at Trinity Lutheran.
The churchâ€™s third level was becoming a no manâ€™s land and everyone knew something had to be done.
A couple of years ago, a church member whose son is wheelchair-bound decided to look into solutions that would make the church â€“ all parts of the church â€“ more accessible to every member of the congregation. The solution turned out to be adding an elevator.
Prior to settling on the addition of an elevator, the project went through several incarnations, including the possibility of adding chair lifts at the stairwells.
Another idea was to have a vertical lift with a platform large enough to accommodate a wheelchair. When it turned out those sort of lifts were not generally for commercial use, the churchâ€™s property committee went back to the drawing board.
It seemed an elevator was the only way to go.
â€œI contacted several architects I was told had worked with churches,â€ said property committee chairman Albert Reid.
The church chose J3H Architects from Davidson to handle the project.
The construction project has been going on for almost a year now, but Reid says the end is in sight and expects the elevator to be operational within the next two months.
â€œWe should be able to have our grand lift,â€ Reid said.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to getting this project off the ground was satisfying a number of state and local codes. Illinois-based company Kone, Inc. is currently working to install the actual elevator.
When installation is complete, passing a state inspection and receiving certification is the only thing keeping Trinity Lutheranâ€™s elevator from its maiden voyage.
With approximately 340 members, the churchâ€™s new addition should prove helpful to those in the congregation who have been unable to venture to the third floor.
â€œI think it will help a huge number of people,â€ said Locke. â€œIt makes our church more useable and accessible.â€
Surprisingly, having an elevator in a church isnâ€™t all that unusual. Locke says he knows of several churches in Newton that have them.
â€œOur challenge here was being able to do it with an older building,â€ Locke said. â€œWe were fortunate to be able to add it to the outside of the building.â€
Locke says the congregation has for the most part been supportive of the new addition, although he admits that finances were a concern at times.
â€œWeâ€™re realizing we didnâ€™t have much of a choice if we wanted access to the whole building,â€ said Locke.
The construction of the elevator is actually one of several moves toward updating that the church has undertaken over the past five or six years. With a new fire escape, plus new windows and carpeting, the church has made updating its facilities a priority.
A celebration is planned for sometime after the elevator gets moving and may end up tying into the churchâ€™s homecoming festivities in August.
According to Locke, many people are responsible for bringing the much needed elevator to Trinity Lutheran.
â€œ(Reid) has been the real energy force keeping this thing moving,â€ Locke said. â€œI think weâ€™ve been very fortunate to have J3H and local contractor Houser Masonry and Construction. Theyâ€™ve been great to work with. Theyâ€™ve been very good to us.â€
Considering that some members of the congregation have not been on the third floor in years, this is a church that is very good to its members.
Soon, those folks will be able to go into any part of the church they please. Locke says he is happy that Trinity Lutheran will now be able to expand its activities and programs and have a degree of flexibility it didnâ€™t before.
Hopefully, the addition of an elevator at Trinity Lutheran will be a blessing to the churchâ€™s members for years to come.
â€œWe never know whatâ€™s going to happen in life,â€ said Locke. â€œThis is a long-term investment into the life of the church.â€
by Allyson Levine