DURANT – Senior Pastor Joe Zaino of Pleasant Grove Assembly of God sees the long-awaited construction of a new sanctuary as the start of a new chapter for the 115-year-old church.
The building, being constructed with the help of volunteers, is expected to be completed in about a year at the church, 7051 Turkey Creek Road.
The old sanctuary was first built in 1899 as a pavilion with a roof and columns that could sit up to 400 people. People would come from across the country and stay for a week at a time on the church’s 39-acres, attending camp meetings and revivals featuring messages from prominent Assembly of God ministers of the day.
Over the years walls and additional rooms were added to the pavilion to form a sanctuary, but the building became unusable and was demolished in 2003.
The fellowship hall has housed the services for 12 years.
“We fixed it up the best we could,” Zaino said. “We can get about 150 chairs in there but they’re (the congregation) ready to go into the new sanctuary.”
Zaino said their congregation consists predominantly of senior citizens and retirees and raising the money for a new sanctuary, while a long held wish, has been difficult.
“They’re 100 percent supportive of everything,” Zaino said. “For many of these people, this has been their church for their whole lives.”
The first phase of the sanctuary construction began in January when the church partnered with Mobilization and Placement Service (MAPS), a missions organization that builds churches, schools and youth centers for the Assembly of God denomination. The builders, all retired professional contractors, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and engineers, work on a volunteer basis.
“These guys are quite a blessing,” Zaino said. “These men will save us at least $300,000.”
MAPS volunteers travel the country in motor homes and set up camp at the work site. The host supplies the building material and RV hook-ups along with electric and water and the volunteers provide the labor for free.
“It’s a lot more rewarding than the money,” said volunteer George Engelmann, supervisor for the building project, who has been with the organization based out of Springfield, Mo., since the 1980s.
Assistant Supervisor Joe Nemeth explained that they are currently building the foundation and preparing to pour concrete. The project will take up to a year to complete when they return next spring for phase two, which will be to construct the interior.
“We save them 40 to 50 percent so they can do what they do,” Nemeth said.
Zaino explained the new sanctuary will allow their church to reach more people in the surrounding community, an endeavor which the congregation is eager to do.
“They’re excited about going forward again,” he said, adding that the church adds to the rich heritage of the Pleasant Grove community.
“We have people who aren’t even church goers who ask us ‘When are you going to build your church again?’” Zaino said. “It’s been a hope for the community for many years.”