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A $2 million leap of faith

By Staff | May 9, 2011

On a cold, blustery – even a bit snowy – May Day, members of a local church congregation had a lot to celebrate.

They are going to build a new church.

The congregation of Hope United Methodist Church of Blue Earth broke ground last Sunday for their new $2 million church building.

And, while the site is now a stubble filled corn field, they plan to be holding Christmas Eve services in the new worship center.

After church service in their current church building, across from the Blue Earth Area Middle School, the congregation car-pooled out to the location of the new church for the official groundbreaking ceremony.

The new church will be built immediately north of I-90 on County Road 6 (Main St.).

It will be located directly east across the road from KJLY radio station.

“Half of the land was donated by the Manske family,” says Bruce Ankeny, co-chairman of the church’s building committee. “It was part of their original farm. We purchased the other half because we felt we needed more area. It is a total of 10 acres.”

Ankeny says the church membership decided to build a new building about four years ago.

“We decided we would not start building, or hold this groundbreaking ceremony, until we had $1.5 million of the necessary $2 million,” Ankeny says. “We have that much donated now, with another $400,000 in pledges.”

Ankeny says there was another stipulation before moving forward with the construction plans.

“We wanted to be rid of our other three church buildings,” he explains. “We have now accomplished that.”

Hope United Methodist Church is a combination of three former Methodist churches; First United Methodist, Immanuel United Methodist and Salem United Methodist churches.

Immanuel was located in rural Blue Earth. That church building was demolished.

The former First United Methodist building was sold to the Youth for Christ organization for $1,000, Ankeny says.

The Salem church building, which the congregation is still using until the new church is built, has recently been sold to Life Family Church of Mankato.

The sale price was not announced.

Ankeny says several items from each of the old church buildings will be included in the new structure.

“We saved the stained glass windows from all three,” he explains. “The ones from First will be along the sides of the new church, the ones from Salem will be in the front, and the Rose window from Immanuel will be in the rear.”

Several pews from each church will be used along the walls in the large welcoming area.

“Plus, we saved the bell from each church,” Ankeny adds. “We will eventually build a tower to display the three.”

The church did not have to work too hard on finding architectural plans for the new Hope United Methodist Church building.

The building committee “borrowed” some previously used plans.

“A new church in Lake Park, Iowa, shared their plans with a new Methodist church in Ellendale,” Ankeny says. “They now are sharing them with us.”

There will be changes, of course. The Blue Earth church is ‘flip-flopping’ some of the design, to fit into their particular lot area.

Plus, they are building a much larger commercial-style kitchen, in a different location than the Ellendale church.

“We have already awarded most of the bids for the various types of work,” Ankeny says. “Many, if not most, of them are local contractors.”

That includes United Builders of Blue Earth as the major contractor.

“We hired Kurt Abel, owner of United Builders, as our construction manager,” Ankeny says. “He says if we don’t have any ‘bumps in the road’ we should be in the new building by December.”

With the funding in place, the building will start immediately, Ankeny says.

“It seemed to me to take a long time – four years – to raise the funding,” Ankeny says. “But, everyone tells me they are actually amazed we were able to do it so quickly. We did have very good participation in our pledge drive.”

On Sunday, May 1, the congregation celebrated with shovels digging in the dirt, hymns, scripture reading – and a balloon release by the children of the church.