The sanctuary of Orion United Methodist Church will be empty Sunday morning, March 5. Instead, parishioners and friends will worship in the newly renovated Methodist Activity Center (MAC) as the church caps off a two-year long renovation project by dedicating the new facility. Dedication services will be held in the MAC at both 8 am and 10:30 am and will feature the preaching of Sylvester Weatherall, District Superintendent of the Spoon River District of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church. Rev. David Schultz is the host pastor.
Communion will be served at both services and is open to all who desire to receive God’s grace. The 10:30 service will also feature special music by the sanctuary choir and adult bell choir. At noon, the youth will host a potato bar in the church’s fellowship hall for a free will offering. Proceeds will be directed to youth ministries and missions.
The MAC is located at the north end of the church campus at 1104 Fifth Street, just 50 feet north of the main church.
“The MAC has already been a tremendous asset to our church as well as to our community,” noted Rev. Schultz, pastor of Orion UMC. “It has already provided meeting space for our congregation’s youth ministry as well as Boy Scouts, Orion Lions Club, Main Street Orion and more.”
The MAC is housed in a renovated steel building which originally housed Orion Tool and Die. After they relocated, the building became home to Anderson Auction House before being turned into a private storage garage. However, Rev. Schultz was quick to point out that today the building bears little if any resemblance to what it was before.
The renovated building features a 40-by-70-foot gym plus a stage, kitchen, restrooms and gathering area. Designed for versatility, the MAC includes a shower in one restroom and, in the kitchen, two moveable counters designed by Don Berns, one of the congregation’s trustees. The gym’s open ceiling shows off the original steel beams and new insulation.
“We embraced the industrial look with a gray color scheme as well as by designing what we hope is a very practical activity center,” explained Carrie McCunn who not only serves on the congregation’s board of trustees but also served as the designer for the project. “We began by giving the MAC a new floor. The original one just wasn’t suitable for our needs, so we began by pouring four inches of concrete over the preexisting floor. The result not only looks great, but it can take a beating.”
To offset the rugged look of the concrete floor and steel beams, the walls have been covered with carpeting which also helps with acoustics.
“I’ve known of other gyms which have featured carpeted walls,” Rev. Schultz smiled, “but when I first suggested it here, some people thought I was crazy. Now, it’s one of the things people love the most about the MAC.”
Orion UMC purchased the building and grounds on December 31, 2013. “I don’t know if the congregation ever had the opportunity to purchase the building in the past when it changed hands, but when it came up for sale three-plus years ago, it was a no-brainer. We held a church conference to vote on purchasing the building and the vote was unanimous,” Rev. Schultz recalled.
Most of 2014 was devoted to developing plans for utilizing the space. Finally, work began in November of that year when a section of the steel roof was replaced. Renovations continued over the next two years and were finally complete on November 8, 2016.
A pair of backboards and basketball hoops give the building the right finishing touch. However, the MAC is also known for its 9-Square-In-the-Air set. “It’s a cross between volleyball and four-square,” Rev. Schultz explained. “One of the first activities held in the MAC was a middle school dance and party for the Orion Fall Festival. That event had been poorly attended in recent years, but that changed for the better last year. We had over 80 kids dancing and playing board games and 9-Square for over three hours. And parents appreciated knowing that their kids were in a safe space.”
That safe space is also paid for. Renovations cost $270,000; however, the congregation incurred no debt in completing the project. Helping to keep costs down were many hours of volunteer labor provided by church members.
Contractors on the project include Hirsch Painting, Myers Plumbing and Heating, CSI Insulation, West Concrete, East Moline glass, T&M Electric, Carpet Time, Pro-Build Cabinets, Temple Sporting Goods and West Music.
Oversight for the project was provided by the congregation’s board of trustees, including Sue DeDecker, Janet Marshall, Carrie McCunn, Don Berns, Ty Bingham, Gerald DeBaillie, Cliff Harrell, John Schenk and Betty Jo Versluis.
This spring work will shift outside of the MAC where work will begin on sidewalks, retaining walls and a parking lot just east of the building.