A light snowfall and somewhat hazardous roads didn't dampen the spirits at Clifton Presbyterian Church Sunday afternoon, Jan. 21, as members of the congregation gathered to dedicate their newly renovated home.
"We are very grateful to be here and celebrating this occasion," said Lynne Stanton-Hoyle, minister of the church. "This is a real opportunity for us to be thankful for the way this all came together."
The renovation added to the church in the form of a new fellowship hall and renovated the sanctuary, was nine years in the making and cost $3.1 million. The money was raised through contributions and weekly donations, Stanton-Hoyle said.
While the journey was long and at times seemingly endless, Stanton-Hoyle said her congregation kept working forward with a shared goal in mind.
"Now that we're done, we've got more work ahead of us with a senior program we're hoping to start in February and a new mid-week activity for children and adults," she said.
WEARING A NEW black suit she bought specifically for the occasion, Marla Hembree said the hard work and long wait were worthwhile.
"We had a wonderful architect and contractor, but we also had wonderful volunteers," said Hembree, a member of the building committee and its precursor, the committee which conducted a feasibility study to determine if the renovation could ever happen.
The church was bursting at the seams prior to the renovation, she said, with some classrooms meeting in a drafty garage because there wasn't any room in the main facility.
"We are much blessed," Hembree said. "We're blessed by good people and great dreams."
Del. Tim Hugo (R-40) said the renovations turned out better than he'd imagined.
"This is a great part of Clifton, in many ways it's the heart of the town," Hugo said. "It's absolutely beautiful. They've done a great job."
Hugo said that despite the snowy afternoon, "the sun will always shine on Clifton Presbyterian."
A frequent singer at the church, Helen Rusnak said she was impressed by the acoustics in the sanctuary.
"The new sound system is just wonderful," she said. "This is all just fabulous. It's really lovely."
Her husband, Town Council member Chuck Rusnak, added his praises to the transformation.
"What's really nice is the church has offered use of the building to the town for meetings," he said. "I'm very impressed."
Mark and Diane Reimers have been members of the church since they moved to Clifton in 1972 and received a plaque thanking them for their years of hard work and dedication to the church, the renovation project and their missionary work in Kenya.
In honor of their contributions, a prayer and meditation garden will be added to the courtyard courtesy of an Eagle Scout project to begin this spring.
"When we first came here, we were glad there was a church to welcome us," Mark Reimers said. "We're just glad to be a part of the renovation and rebuilding to welcome the next generation here."
Former mayor Jim Chesley said he remembers the controversy when the renovation was first proposed almost a decade ago.
"People were concerned the new addition would overpower the original buildings," Chesley said. "All the permits they had were to build on the existing area, not to make it any bigger."
Now that the work has been completed, Chesley is certain the residents will be happy with the changes.
"I think it's a really nice compliment to the original building and the town," he said.