Renovated sanctuary warmly received by St. John’s congregation

For the congregation of St. John’s United Methodist Church, Sunday was an important and much anticipated day. After a major renovation of the sanctuary, worship services were held there for the first time since May. There was one at 8:30 a.m. and another at 11 a.m. “Everything is lovely,” said Dorothy Poe, who has been a St. John’s member for 63 years, as she looked around at the new choir loft and new stained glass windows. Other changes included pews that had been stained a brighter color, new lighting and a new wooden floor in the chancel area. “I think it’s wonderful,” said the Rev. Dr. Tim McClendon, who is St. John’s senior pastor. For him, the biggest concern was the decision to replace the clear glass in the windows with stained glass. “I had some doubts at first because we have a contemporary modern structure, and I was afraid stained glass would take something away from it,” McClendon said. “But the stained glass is marvelous. The windows are understated and elegant.” McClendon also was pleased with the sanctuary’s overall appearance. “It was beautiful before, but now it is more welcoming,” he said. “It has a warmer feeling.” Stewart Builders of Aiken was the main contractor for the project, and North Carolina-based Laws Stained Glass Studios made the white crosses and panes of red, yellow and other colors for the windows. Heavy rains on Sept. 24 caused a leak that created some trouble with the new lighting, but that didn’t have a negative impact on the church members’ celebratory mood. It just meant there would be something more that was different to experience during future worship services. “We will be able to do so many beautiful things with the lighting now,” said Catherine Stapleton Nance, St. John’s director of music ministries. “We’ll be able to create all sorts of moods and have beautiful Christmas Eve services where we can make it gradually get darker for the candlelighting.” The narthex also was refurbished. “What I liked about the sanctuary was its plainness,” said Alison Carpenter. “They kept that, and it still brings honor to God.” Deanna Goodlove also was happy with what she saw. “It looks better than I expected it to look,” she said. “Before it was so dark in here, and now it’s so bright. The things that I was worried about them changing they didn’t change. The big cross is still up there (hanging near the front of the sanctuary), and the little white crosses on the wall over there that I love are still there.” After walking down the aisle for the 11 a.m. service, Jerry Reese said, “It looks great, and it even smells new.” Holland Architects was the architectural firm responsible for design of the sanctuary renovations. St. John’s is at 104 Newberry St. N.W. Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include the architectural firm responsible for design of the new sanctuary.