Zoned for fun -- New Covenant building welcomes the children
By Holly McCray
At New Covenant UMC in Edmond, I secure my yellow hard hat to tour the expansive children’s ministry center under construction there. Grand opening is scheduled for September. Senior Pastor Adrian Cole is my guide.
Population continues to surge in this mission field. Almost 85,000 people live in Edmond, according to the 2012 Census estimate. That’s 17,000 more residents than the 2000 Census reported.
New Covenant is among four established UM churches desiring to make disciples for Christ in this place. To better serve the people, all four are engaged in major building projects and/or capital campaigns.
In late February, I’m eager to explore New Covenant Church’s "Next Step" site, 26,000 square feet for children’s ministries.
"It’s an exciting place. I walk through that space just absolutely in awe every time," Rev. Cole says. "It’s an incredible expression of this church’s vision, I think."
Surveying the interior skeleton of the two-story building, his descriptions inspire my imagination.
I can picture children enjoying the indoor treehouses and towering circular slide. Smiling faces surround the large stage during children’s worship on the second floor. Goldilocks pronounces the furnishings are sized just right in the "little bitties" section.
I imagine families entering beneath the portico at the circular drive and checking in at welcome stations. Adults connect in the coffee house.
Projected cost for the children’s building is $5.5 million. Cole notes that New Covenant remodeled its youth building after a 2008 fire, spending about $1.4 million.
Then the pastor adds, "We’re debt-free."
He says, "A lot of the people who have made this possible, their kids are grown and gone. They still have a place in their hearts for children. We’ve made an investment for the future, for the kids to come."
Both structural and spiritual strength give this project great integrity.
A Bible was placed in the cornerstone as construction began. Members of all ages wrote Scriptures on the foundation, anchoring the building in prayer.
The construction utilizes Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs). The outer walls are 12 inches thick; 8 inches of concrete, reinforced with rebar, are sandwiched between 2-inch panels of foam insulation. The exterior finish is brick.
Six inches of concrete and steel separate the first and second floors.
This sturdy construction functions unseen, just like the prayers blanketing the site.
Cole points out the structure’s "tremendous safety factor, in terms of storms," as well as energy efficiency.
The Next Step project includes expanding and altering some existing spaces. The enlarged gym/fellowship hall will offer a regulation-size basketball court/two Upward Basketball courts, and will seat about 500 people for events.
New Covenant currently serves a weekly meal to about 300 people. A Children’s Day Out program operates on Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday. Next door is Orvis Risner Elementary School.
Cole is in his 18th year leading the multi-generational congregation. Last year, worship attendance averaged 678 people at the church on South Boulevard near East 33rd.
"There are a lot of stories here, a lot of people here" who make a difference, Cole says. "We try to focus on Ephesians 4. It’s the people who do the work of ministry. We just enable them to do that."
He speaks of the family-practice physician who chairs the church building committee. The doctor and his wife have three children and recently became foster parents. "He’s got those family obligations and his business, and he’s done a tremendous job because he has a vision for children. He’s been an inspiration," the pastor describes.
Cole introduces retired clergyman Richard Whetsell, a former missionary in Alaska. Rev. Whetsell gives key leadership on the construction project. Lippert Bros. Inc. is contractor.
And I meet Christina Butterworth, children’s ministry director, who tells me about a recent "aha" moment.
In Pennsylvania, hometown friends prayed over her at Christmas. Unaware of her escalating workload as the children’s center takes shape, "they prayed so specifically to the situation that all I could do was cry," Butterworth said.
Within two weeks, volunteers in Edmond stepped up their help and multiple tasks were completed.
Joy has replaced Butterworth’s tears. She testifies to the power of prayer. "I know God is at work in this," she says.
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This Bible was signed by church leaders and placed within the foundation of New Covenant’s new children’s center.
Photo by DeWayne Simpson
The Wagner family packs meals during a recent Serve Sunday inside the sanctuary at Edmond-New Covenant UMC. From left are Jason, Crystal, Katy, and Maddy Wagner. The food will be distributed by Hotdogs for the Homeless, a local community project. Such "serve opportunities" form the Response by worshippers at the conclusion of some services. "It’s a way for the people to express their service to God and their connection to mission and ministry," said Senior Pastor Adrian Cole.
Photo by Holly McCray
Children soon will play in treehouses sprouting from a large oak inside the Next Step children’s ministry center under construction at Edmond-New Covenant UMC. Senior Pastor Adrian Cole stands on the building’s upper level beside the installation.