Winchester First United Methodist Church received a $10,000 grant from the Golden Cross Foundation, a ministry of the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church. The grant is being used toward purchasing and installing a four-person lift.
Built in 1893, the church’s sanctuary is on the ground floor. Over the years, other floors were added including the first floor that contains Sunday school rooms and restrooms. Currently, members wanting to access the first floor from the sanctuary have to climb a set of stairs. Anyone unable to navigate the stairs has to exit the sanctuary and walk several hundred feet outside to another entrance.
“For several years, church members worked with construction and lift companies to address our accessibility problem,” said Pat Brandenstein, First UMC’s Older Adult Ministry chair. “Our solution is to install a four-person lift located by the sanctuary.”
When complete, the lift will go to the first floor where restrooms are just steps away from the lift as well as a second floor that has classrooms for children and adults. Not only will the lift keep all members warm and dry when going from floor to floor, it will help foster intergenerational relationships between older adults and children.
In addition to the lift, First UMC is in the midst of two building renovations. At a time when church budgets are stretched thin due to declining attendance and giving caused by the pandemic, God has been at work through the generous donations of First UMC members.
“God has been speaking to people’s hearts about the needs of our older adults and their difficulties in navigating from the sanctuary to restrooms and classrooms,” said Brandenstein.
Indeed, members already are looking forward to the day when the lift is operational.
“We will have immediate access to a restroom, instead of having to go outside, down a ramp, around a building, maneuver a rough parking lot, open a heavy door, and walk down a hallway,” said a FUMC member.
Another member added, “No longer will my husband have to push me in my wheelchair outside to get me to my Sunday school class.”
Retrofitting projects such as lifts are one of the many ways churches can be more welcoming and accessible to all people. Thanks in part to grants from the Golden Cross Foundation, these projects are moving from dreams to reality for churches such as First UMC.