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Saint Andrew Lutheran Rededicates its Sanctuary

Saint Andrew Lutheran Church in Centreville has a newly renovated sanctuary, and last Sunday it held a rededication ceremony for it.

"We're very pleased," said the Rev. Dennis Hagstrom. "We see the renovated sanctuary as a sign of the renewed mission of the Saint Andrew congregation. And during the service, people rededicated themselves to living out this mission — which is 'to welcome all people, to grow in our relationship with Christ and to serve the Lord.'"

The sanctuary was the first unit of the church that was built in the early 1980s. It was used for worship, but also for Sunday School, the nursery and an office.

"Every Sunday, between the two worship services, we had to move the chairs and add tables and room dividers for Sunday School," said Hagstrom. "We did this until the early '90s, when we opened the second unit — the new Sunday School/preschool space, fellowship hall, new offices and kitchen."

The third unit, which included three floors for Sunday School/preschool use, was added in 1997-98. However, for the past 2 1/2 years, trouble was afoot deep within the old sanctuary.

"The rusted, HVAC ductwork had collapsed and had dirt and water in it, thus creating bad air and problems for people with asthma," explained the pastor. "One choir member and several members of the congregation found it difficult to stay for an entire worship service."

So the church began raising money last October and, through donations and financing, eventually amassed $280,000 for the repair work, which began in early January. "We jackhammered and removed the entire concrete floor and carpet, and the old ductwork," said Hagstrom. Meanwhile, congregants worshipped in the fellowship hall.

"The last service in the old sanctuary was Christmas Day 2005," he said. "And the first one in the new, renovated sanctuary was Easter Sunday."

Workmen installed new, Fiberglas ductwork on a gravel base. Then another concrete floor was poured, new carpeting was laid and a natural-oak, hardwood floor was placed in the altar and music areas. The renovation project also included the addition of:

* A large, dark-wood, hanging cross. Said Hagstrom: "The only cross we had before was the processional cross that was carried in."

* Two stone panels behind the altar, running from floor to ceiling on either side of the angled, altar window.

* A new Communion rail.

* A round piece of granite from Israel at the church entrance, with the Baptismal font in the center. Said Hagstrom: "It's to remind people that Baptism is the means by which one enters into the Christian community.

* A new audio-visual system, new speakers for the organ and newly plastered and repainted front and rear walls of the sanctuary. (Before, they were just white-painted cinderblock).

The church also features two, new, brass, altar candlesticks. They were given by family and friends in memory of Centreville's Laura Harsh, who died in January and who attended Saint Andrew for many years.

Last Sunday, May 21, Bishop Theodore Schneider of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, preached at Saint Andrew and lead the Rite of Rededication. In addition, celebration music was offered by Saint Andrew's music ensembles, including the Sanctuary Choir, Grateful Living Choir, Handbell Choir, brass trio and Crosswalk, its contemporary praise band.

Country Club Manor's Paula Rothenberg, a member of Saint Andrew for 17 years, was delighted with all the improvements. "That fabulous wooden cross and new stonework enhances our commitment to worship at Saint Andrew," she said. "And it was exciting to have the bishop join us here today to celebrate in the rededication."

Karen Lang, of Centreville's Gate Post Estates community, has attended for 11 years and also was pleased with the changes. "It's very nice to have a clean, comfortable setting to worship in," she said. "The air was so stale before."

Robert Statham, the church's music and choir director, said it was a smooth transition and he, too, appreciates the renovation. "It's made life a lot easier for the choir — they can breathe a lot easier," he said. "It's had a positive impact on everybody in the music ministry wanting to present well. It creates a wonderful sense of energy and spontaneity."

Schneider said a rededication means a moment of accomplishment for a congregation and demonstrates "the fulfillment of some vision — which is important in begetting new visions. So the concern was to dedicate a welcoming place, but also to remind ourselves that we need to be a welcoming people."

However, he said he always finds Saint Andrew Lutheran warm and welcoming. "It's a genuine congregation," said Schneider. "It's really growing in its vision and aware of its role in the whole of the Church."