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Grace United Methodist Church in Moravia is the spring 2014 recipient of the Builder’s Call.
Grace UMC is located in the South Central Conference and is considered to be in the gateway to Lake Rathbun, a little more than an hour southeast of Des Moines.
Approximately 800 people live in Moravia.
“It’s very small but has a very rich heritage,” said Rev. Cindy Finn, pastor for Grace UMC.
The congregation was started with a Moravian colony in the 1850’s.
The people held a really deep faith, a part of which is outreach, said Rev. Finn.
“That’s something they hold as part of being their heritage,” she said.
The existing church for Grace UMC was built in the late 1920’s
As is often the case with older building, the church was no longer meeting the congregation’s needs.
The questions for the faith community was whether to try to renovate the basement for continued use as a fellowship hall and kitchen or build something new, said Rev. Finn.
Building new was found to be cheaper, and a building task force was in place when Rev. Finn arrived about three years ago.
Something common in small-town Iowa is ecumenical and community-wide cooperation with facilities and events. Moravia is no exception.
“The city of Moravia has no other place to meet,” Rev. Finn said. “Most of the use (of the church hall) right now is community.
The Moravia Grace Fellowship Hall has been and still is a project of the community.
“It has done everything we hoped,” said Rev. Finn. “It has done outreach into the community, people have come into the church that wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Groundbreaking was in the fall of 2012, and construction began right away.
“They did not wait,” rev. Finn said. “They started to get the floors and the walls up before bad weather.”
The new building is just east of the church.
The congregation went in and did the insulation and helped with the drywall and mudding, said Rev. Finn. This was between 50-60 people of a congregation totaling 70-80 each week for worship.
“They did the painting and finishing themselves,” she said.
The fellowship hall opened for use in April 2013, appropriately, Rev. Finn said, for a baby shower.
The 90x30 building is fully handicapped-accessible, has a full working kitchen with appliances and a children’s room.
“It’s fun to see people going in because they’re shocked by how big it is,
said Rev. Finn.
Still needed is an industrial dishwasher, more tables and chairs, a sound system, landscaping and other odds and ends.
Also, the District Building Committee wanted the church connect the two buildings with a carport for times of bad weather. The estimated cost for that is between $20 and $30K.
Support for the project was pretty close to unanimous, said Rev. Finn, but the few people with questions were convinced by the possibility of being a recipient of the Builder’s Call.
“Our church is a member of the Builder’s Call,” Rev. Finn said. “Many of our people donate to the Builder’s Call. It gave them confidence in supporting the project because they felt that we would be supported by our Conference.”
“The big thing, is that this is important to the church’s outreach,” said Rev. Finn. “It’s important to our church members to show the community that they love them and that God loves them.”
“This is a way they can spread God’s love, this is a way they can show God’s love,” she said. “And they talk about that a lot. They talk about it quite a bit.”
Seeing her church members able to reach out to the community and be moved by doing so is a point of great satisfaction for Rev. Finn.
“Times like this are when it’s exciting to be a pastor,” she said.