At a Church Conference in March 2010, the Woodlawn UMC congregation overwhelmingly approved a plan to rebuild its sanctuary. Woodlawn UMC’s historic sanctuary was destroyed by a fire on May 31, 2009.
The congregation’s rebuilding plan also includes a high school-sized gym for the community, and turning a church-owned lot into urban green space.
Rev. Larry Horne, pastor of Woodlawn UMC explains, “In addition to a sanctuary, offices, and classrooms, the building plan calls for a multi-purpose facility that will serve not only the needs of the church, but also Cornerstone School, and the greater Woodlawn community. We believe that this plan will provide many additional avenues of outreach and of service.”
While there are still some steps the congregation must take before construction can begin, the hope is that the congregation will occupy the new facility sometime in 2011.
Rev. Matt Lacey, one of the pastors of Woodlawn UMC says, “As a pastor, it was touching to see a church make such a hard, yet important, decision in its life. This church could have easily closed their door, or packed up to leave. But Woodlawn UMC has decided that this community is too important not to be a part of its revitalization.”
Rev. Horne, who has served as pastor of Woodlawn for 16 years, explains that the dedication to the community has been a part of the Woodlawn congregation long before the tragic fire.
“Some years ago, I believe that it was around my first or second year as pastor, the members of Woodlawn United Methodist Church looked at a number of options that included relocating, but the decision was made those many years ago to remain and to be the church for the community no matter what the community might be or might become,” he says. “Now we are beginning to see, even in the face of our tragedy, that the congregation’s membership is really reflecting the beautiful diversity that is the greater Woodlawn community and that is, even more, the Kingdom of God.”
Horne notes that the loss of the historic sanctuary, which had been completed in 1912, was painful for the congregation. He also says many churches and individuals reached out to the congregation following the fire.
“There was such an outpouring of support and offers of help right after the fire, and I cannot express enough my gratitude and the gratitude of the Woodlawn congregation for all of those sincere offers,” he says.
Now as the congregation moves forward with a rebuilding plan, they are also as focused as ever to reach out and “to be the presence of Christ” for the Woodlawn community.
“These are among the most resilient, dedicated people that I have been privileged to know, and no matter what we have had to endure, we are family, and will remain so. I have no doubt about the ultimate triumph of this congregation, because our trust is in God and in the ultimate triumph of God’s Kingdom,” Horne says. “And let me add that Matt Lacey, our Minister of Outreach, is already doing a magnificent job of reaching out to the community in an effort to bring new life into Woodlawn UMC .We are so fortunate to have him and his beautiful wife, Katie. I believe that their presence offers real hope for Woodlawn’s future.”
Rev. Lacey, who was appointed to Woodlawn in January 2010, reflects, “Woodlawn UMC has made an intentional choice to stay in the Woodlawn community while many other congregations have left. Even after a very short time at the church, I have felt a sense of energy which undoubtedly originates from God.”
As the process of rebuilding continues at Woodlawn UMC, Rev. Horne adds, “For now, we covet the continued prayers of everyone, and rest assured, when the time comes for specific ways of helping, we will surely make those specific needs known.”