Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Poteau making space for next century of ministry


Pastor Greg Tener and acolyte Versile Johnson prepare May 30 to lead the congregation of Poteau-First from the sanctuary to the Christian Family Life Center, the temporary worship location.

By Carol Baker, Church Historian, Poteau UMC

On May 30, the final Sunday morning worship service took place in the sanctuary of Poteau’s First United Methodist Church.

This service had a special purpose: to help the congregation say goodbye to the 100-year-old sanctuary. Demolition began June 14, launching a new era in worship, nurture, and outreach ministries.

The Christian Family Life Center on the property is serving as a temporary sanctuary until a new building is complete.

"Building a new sanctuary has been a dream of many church members for several years," said Pastor Greg Tener. "The decision to build it was not made easily, but prayerfully. This is a growing congregation that simply needs more space—space that is as inviting as the congregation."

Church members have, for more than a year, been in diligent prayer, including a weekend prayer vigil, before voting to proceed with a building project.

The years had taken a great toll on the aged, outgrown, and outdated building. Major structural problems had surfaced. Steep stairs provided the only access to every area in the building.

A moment for memories Mike and Lindsay Murray, with their sons Nathan and Waylon, watch June 14 as the 1909 sanctuary building is razed at Poteau-First UMC. That day, memories mingled with visions of the future. The Murrays had not been active in a church before joining Poteau-First in recent years; they have given their support to the new sanctuary project.

Now there is excitement about the prospects of a beautiful, spacious facility, modern in every way. Yet the undertaking also generates grieving. We imagine those historic walls were saturated with the praise and prayers of all those disciples who worshipped there across a century.

Throughout our fund-raising campaign, we used the theme "May all who come behind us find us faithful." We aspire to do for our descendants what was done for us in 1909, when that stately building was constructed by people with a vision for the future. We wonder: Did they imagine a congregation here in the year 2010?

Of concern has been the fate of the sanctuary’s stained-glass windows. They were professionally removed, and they will be refurbished, stored safely, and placed in the new structure. Other sanctuary artifacts, including the cross, also will be used in the new space.

Poteau-First’s ministry will be enhanced by: more adequate space for welcoming people into the building, improved space for music ministry, an enlarged chancel area to support worship activities, and improved sound and audiovisual equipment.

Rev. Dr. Tener reminded the congregation to keep foremost in mind that the new sanctuary is being built to honor God and to be of service to our community and neighbors.

Please hold our church members in your prayers during this time of demolition, construction, and change.


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