‘A surreal, thankful moment’: New Palestine church to open new sanctuary Sunday

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NEW PALESTINE — They filed in around the clock. A mother and son. A few women from the same Bible study. A husband and wife who arrived before dawn and, after an hour of reading the Bible out loud, appeared to leave refreshed.

Brookville Road Community Church will celebrate its first services Sunday in a new auditorium added to the west end of its building at 7480 W. U.S. 52. Recently, people from the congregation helped consecrate the space by reading the entire Bible out loud in it, doing so in one-hour shifts before rows of empty new seats.

Sunday’s opening is a culminating moment in a construction process that included a November 2019 groundbreaking ceremony and continued onward even as the church was empty of worshipers for about three months this spring amid the coronavirus quarantine.

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“It’s a surreal, thankful moment,” said lead pastor Kris Sorensen. “There’s something happening here, and God’s been kind enough to let us be part of it.”

Church leaders have said the congregation’s contributions remained steady during that time, and having the building empty for several months even sped the construction, because crews did not have to put away equipment and clean up each weekend for services.

The addition includes not only the worship space but also expanded areas for children, preschoolers and infants, along with added restrooms — including child-size ones right there in the preschool classroom block instead of down a hallway. There’s also a sensory room for children with special needs who can use a break and, behind the sanctuary, a young families room where parents can watch the service and attend to young children.

“The push for me was wanting to give our best for our children,” Sorensen said.

The more than 800 seats in the auditorium face a stage to the southwest, where the baptistry is built into the stage with a cover that can lift on the day of baptisms.

The journey to expand the building was decades in the making. The church built its first structure in 1986, three years after its founding. In the early 2000s, it added more than 34,000 square feet of multi-purpose space, classrooms and a kitchen.

Andy Flink, children and care pastor at Brookville Road, said the church expected it would take three years to fill that enlarged worship space, a multi-purpose room known as the Family Life Center. It took three months. Spaces above the center that could have been classrooms became balconies instead to add seating.

That center was, from the start, meant to be transitional until a larger sanctuary was built. Yet amid challenging economic times, “We ended up being in that space a lot longer,” Flink said.

People of the church made do, enhancing the setting with lighting, set design and other touches to make it versatile. By Sunday morning, it held rows of seats for services. By Sunday evening, the lights were brighter and the basketball goals lowered as teens filled the space for youth group. Sorensen said people in the church’s introduction class would often see the latter use during a tour of the church; they’d voice disbelief it was the same room they’d attended a service in that morning.

Bettye Parks, who has attended Brookville Road for more than 25 years, was on a design team for the previous addition years ago and is thrilled to see to see a new sanctuary completed.

“As long as God keeps bringing people in … there’ll be an effort to provide” space for them, Parks said. “I’m very much grateful for what we have and the growth that’s come.”

Securing land to facilitate the addition and parking was also years in the making. For nearly 20 years, church leaders prayerfully eyed acreage to the west. Yet the times when a buyer was willing and the times when the church was poised to make a purchase never quite matched up.

Nevertheless, church leaders felt God wanted them to move forward with expanding the building. They applied for and received a matching grant from the Lilly Endowment-funded Center for Congregations, which helped the church pay for a study in 2017 to determine needs.

“This sense … I felt from the very beginning (was) that we were responding to a call or an invitation from the Lord,” Flink said.

The church launched its Boundless campaign in early 2019. People of the church pledged to give more than $7 million over the next two years to fund the renovation and addition; the church’s normal operating expenses; support for mission partners; and the construction of three church buildings in India.

Soon after, the elusive western acreage became available. Flink said for the church to finally be able to buy land feels like “a sign from the Lord.”

To make room for those who want to attend Sunday’s grand opening and yet also honor social distancing, the church will offer four services this week. To the usual service times of 9:15 a.m. and 11 a.m., church leaders have for this Sunday added an 8 a.m. service — designated the best fit for attenders at high risk — and a 1 p.m. service.

During that service, the congregation will reflect on the journey, finish the Bible-reading marathon by reading the Bible’s final chapter (Revelation 22) together and hear Sorensen teach from the New Testament book of Ephesians.

“I’m looking forward to opening up God’s word in a new space,” he said. “I’m hoping that there is that continued sense of God’s presence in the room and anticipation for this new page that we’re turning, and the opportunity to reach our community in a way that we haven’t before.”

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[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Building abroad too” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Brookville Road Community Church’s Boundless initiative budgeted not only for building a new sanctuary in New Palestine, but also for constructing church buildings for three congregations in India through International Cooperating Ministries.

“We wanted to make sure as a mission-minded church, we don’t just think of ourselves,” said Kris Sorensen, Brookville Road’s lead pastor.

[sc:pullout-text-end]