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Church Moves Into 21st Century

Renovations and construction for a new building keep 104-year-old church busy.

Four months after the groundbreaking ceremony in August, construction continues on the Oakton United Methodist Church for a new building and renovation of current buildings. The new building will house the music department, new administrative offices, a work area, and handicapped bathrooms.

Additionally, the church is remodeling the current sanctuary, by expanding the choir loft, putting a new elevator to go between the balcony, sanctuary, and fellowship hall, and replacing the pews with white mahogany. The church is also renovating the fellowship hall below the sanctuary, and putting a new roof on the original 1898 church building.

"We’re hoping that the new appearance will be more attractive to visitors," said church pastor John Plummer.

The church began thinking about expanding when the choir room didn’t have any space to practice. Church leaders started to think of other needs, such as wheelchair accessibility and fire safety.

"We’re really modernizing and expanding at the same time," said Giles Sinkewiz, a church member for nine years.

As procedure for United Methodist churches, Plummer and other church leaders asked the congregation for approval to build the new building and renovate existing ones. While there were some initially who opposed the expansion, Plummer said the whole congregation eventually came together, and now fully supports the project, emotionally and financially. Indeed, the $1.4 million needed for construction costs came almost exclusively from its 550 members, Plummer said.

"In a lot of congregations, something like this can cause a split or controversy," Plummer said.

While the original completion date for the project was April 2003, Plummer and Sinkewiz predict that construction will actually finish in mid-late May, due to delays stemming from the weather and from unexpected problems that arise from adding onto an existing building, like asbestos and molding.

When the new building is completed and the church offices move from their current space, the church will replace that space with more classrooms, so community groups can continue to use the church as a meeting place.

"We provide a valuable service to many service to this community," Plummer said, citing SAT training, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and Jazzercise as some of the community groups that use the church. "We are very limited in space where they can meet."

This latest project of the church is part of a long history of renovating the church’s campus. Aside from the original 1898 sanctuary that has been declared a historic landmark by Fairfax County, the newer sanctuary was built in 1956. A new education building behind the white church was also added. In the mid-1970s, the church made an extension connecting the education wing and all the other church buildings. In 1998, the church remodeled the interior of the original sanctuary to celebrate its 100th anniversary.