When is paint and carpet just paint and carpet and when is it more than paint and carpet?

In 1872, when the ground was broken and foundations were laid for the United Methodist Church that sits at the corner of Second and Hamilton, Methodists had slowly been growing for thirty years in Geneva. Previously occupying a 30’x40’ building on First & James Street, when a revival took hold pressed the membership toward 90 persons, the need for a new building was required. It took over two years to complete the building project and the new building was dedicated on September 27, 1874 without the bell tower as the church didn’t have the funds at the time to complete it until 1893.

While all the construction was going on under the direction of Ashely Kinney of Chicago, the people of the church and the minister, Rev, R.S. Cantine continued their efforts at reaching out to people in their community with the grace of Jesus Christ. While the church building was being built, the church body was also being constructed. By December of 1872, membership of the church without a building was at 140 members and growing.

Buildings have always been a tool in human hands for the work of God. God has not always been fond of being limited to a building: God preferred a tent in the wilderness (Ex. 25), Jesus was itinerant and had no ‘home sweet home’ (Mt. 8:20); God did have a temple a few times (1 Chron 17; Ezra 1:2); Disciples sent to the ends of the earth to baptize not build (Mt. 28:19; Acts 1:8). Buildings with their furnishings are meant to empower ministry, not hinder it. Buildings are not required for God’s love to be shared as evidenced in some of the Scriptures above and even in our own founding history.

In fact, church growth seems to have happened in our history at the same time as building projects and renovations. In 1932, a remodeling project was completed in the former Sanctuary (now Fellowship Hall) and a newspaper article said of the freshened space: “A stranger entering the edifice might well believe that he was in a new church, so striking and pleasing is the effect of the recent changes.” In 1982, another significant addition and remodeling project was completed that added an elevator and classrooms. UMCG grew so much that by 1999 the 1982 addition was torn down, and the current building was built in place of that addition and the parsonage!

Let me return to the question that headlines this post: When is paint and carpet just paint and carpet and when is it more than paint and carpet? I think paint and carpet is just paint and carpet when it’s installed for its own purpose. In some ways, we needed new paint and carpet. It had been 20+ years and the wear and tear on both was both unsightly in spots and dangerous in others (carpet that was bunched and could no longer be smoothed presented tripping hazards). Our Trustees had plans in the works to complete this phase of the Church Beautification project and when the bequest of Ruth Anderson came, this phase of the project could advance and the next phase of preparing for a complete HVAC system replacement could begin. But on its own, the remodeling is just paint and carpet.

However, I also think that when the gifts of a refreshed building, complete with new paint and flooring, along with open hearts willing to be renewed and used by God for God’s purposes as an offering to God, then paint and carpet can be so much more.

In reading the history of our church there are patterns of growth, struggle, revivals, and renovations. It seems to me that we stand on a legacy of faithful people who offered God their hearts as well as their tools for ministry and God accepted the offering and multiplied it all for the glory of God. We’ve seen the church grow in membership and raise a million dollars for missions and building two churches at the same time; one on Second Street and another in Lithuania and so much more! I believe God is ready and eager to use the offering of our paint, carpet, and hearts for something we cannot fully imagine!

In 2024, Methodists will have been officially on the corner of Second and Hamilton Street for 150 years and for 185 years total in Geneva. Wouldn’t it be something if in offering all that we have to God in this season that God added 150-185%  to the church? I know God is eager to do just that! Are we ready to offer ourselves, along with our new paint and carpet, to become something more than paint, carpet, and a historic church? I am. I hope you are too.

When we rededicate our building on Sunday, February 6th at our 9am worship service, I invite us to do so with a heart open to God; eyes set to the future; gratitude for Ruth Anderson and those who have gone before us; and in a spirit of praise and offering for all that God has done, is doing and will do through the people called United Methodist of Geneva.

I have found the Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition (Contemporary Version) to be a source of humility, strength and courage when offering myself to God.

I am no longer my own, but yours.

Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you,

Praised for you or criticized for you.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service.

And now, O wonderful and holy God,

Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,

you are mine, and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

Let it also be made in heaven.  Amen.