Embarking on a Building Program

by Bill Miller

My tenure as chairman of the Administrative Board (AB) from 1976-1979 was an exciting time as it was then that we decided to build and embarked upon the building of a new church. Rev. Moody Wooten was the minister during most of this time and was a pleasure to work with. WUMC member George Koening contributed significantly in many ways, usually behind the scenes. 


Fauquier County, the town of Warrenton and WUMC’s growth was readily evident. Meetings were begun within WUMC to determine the possibility of expanding the existing church building or building a new church on a different site. More space was direly needed for everything:  Sunday School rooms, sanctuary seating, altar, choir space, fellowship hall, kitchen, parking, etc. If we moved, would we move to the property WUMC owned across from the parsonage on Church Street or acquire other property with a prominent view from a main road?  Many questions. Many alternatives. Many opinions.  


Even the UMC District Superintendent and his staff had recognized the need to expand the local church. 

At a meeting at WUMC, District personnel told us they would build a church “near us” if we didn’t expand the existing church or build a new church. At that same meeting, they told us that neither the District nor the UMC at large would provide building plans or financial assistance of any sort. They did, however, require approval at several points if we embarked upon a building program.  


In the meantime, two major expensive events occurred: the stain glass windows required expensive repairs, and WUMC obtained a pipe organ. How would these major events affect a building program? 


Stain glass windows. - The prevailing thought was that the “much in need of expensive repair” stain glass windows would be moved to our newly constructed church building if such a building decision was reached. And, if we decided to expand and renovate the existing building, the windows would already be re-leaded and in good repair. Thus, the decision was made to repair the stain glass windows at a cost of, as I remember, about $20,000.      


Later, the Town of Warrenton ruled that the windows were part of the town’s historical architecture and could not be removed unless replaced with stain glass windows acceptable to the review board. That was far too expensive and is why those windows remain in the old church building.  


A new pipe organ. -  Thanks to the efforts of Jennings and Elizabeth Flathers, Kathryn Hutchinson and many others, WUMC obtained a new pipe organ in 1978. Working with then choir director, Helen Dill,   we expanded the choir loft a few feet into the sanctuary and provided room for the new organ plus a few additional spaces for choir members. The pipe organ was moved to the new church and continues to be of great benefit to WUMC and the local community. 


A building program. - Previous AB chairmen, Lewis Springer and John Pierce, and others spoke to me privately and expressed concern about initiating a building program. It had been tried before and failed because the congregation was too divided on whether to repair / expand the current church or to build a new church elsewhere. That knowledge is what led to critical question number 4 on the church-wide ballot:  “Will you support the majority’s decision regarding a building program?”    


The decision to embark upon a building program was made Sunday, May 20, 1979, when WUMC members voted 158 to 147 to build a new church on WUMC’s Church Street property. 96% voted for a building program, 88% voted that they would increase their financial giving to support the building program and 87% voted that they would support the majority decision. Tom Nutt agreed to be chairman of the building committee which was formed shortly after the vote. Tom spent untold numbers of hours on this huge project and did an outstanding job.  


Financing the building program was a parallel effort. Interest rates were very high at that time – in the 15% range.  A three-phased approach was finally adopted: 1) Multiple Items (hymnals, pews, rooms, etc.) were identified and gifted to WUMC as memorials; 2) Bonds (from a few hundred to several thousand dollars) with varying maturity dates were sold to members and non-members; 3) A mortgage loan was obtained from a local bank, Liberty Savings Bank. Many people gave memorials, and many gave their bonds to WUMC when the bonds matured. 


Over the years, the loan was refinanced several times as interest rates dropped and WUMC’s financial position changed. Many bonds were exchanged at WUMC’s request to match our cash flow when bonds were due to be cashed-in. Al Dennis did an outstanding job of managing the mortgage refinancing and bond exchanges. 


The long anticipated groundbreaking and the first Sunday services in the new church are great memories. It was disappointing that Rev. Moody Wooten, the minister throughout almost all of this process, was reassigned a few months prior to the first service in the new church.  


Thanks to the efforts of many members, all the detail work remaining to be done when we moved into the new church was accomplished much faster than most would have thought. Truly, God guided WUMC officials, members and friends of WUMC in this huge undertaking. 


What a grand experience it was to be a part of bringing this new church from a dream to a reality.