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Making room for fellowship

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

A building is just a building until you consider what people have brought -- and will bring -- to that structure.

The Morris Evangelical Free Church has just such a building ready for use.

The church recently completed a 50-foot by 50-foot Fellowship Center.

"It was built with one specific purpose in mind: Fellowship on Sunday mornings and building those relationships," said Free Church Senior Paster Marlin Mohrman.

"Sweat equity" helped the church keep costs to about $70 per square foot. At another church he served in Wisconsin, Mohrman said a $1 million building project cost that congregation about $150 per square foot.

The addition includes a large commons area, with a fireplace seating, high tables and chairs, a wood cabinet for storage and serving, a kitchenette for food preparation.

Liliana Payne, daughter of Free Church members Tap and Margaret Payne, used a Venetian plaster technique to decorate the wall above the cabinet.

"We had people in here, shoulder to shoulder, bumping into each other," Mohrman said.

The project was planned in keeping with the church's ministry, Mohrman said.

"We gave them a budget and boundaries and said, 'Now you have the freedom to do whatever you like,' " he said. "That's really the philosophy of our ministry -- the power of people. Just give them boundaries to use their gifts."

The Fellowship Center will be used for meetings, Bible studies, college services and other small gatherings. Members also may use the building for personal gatherings, Mohrman said.

But the Fellowship Center isn't the only brand new thing at the church. New carpet has been installed throughout the main floor, and planning continues for possibly building a new worship center.

While such a significant undertaking remains in the planning stages, it is indicative of the direction Free Church members envision for themselves.

"The members voted unanimously to build the Fellowship Center," Mohrman said. "That says something about their commitment."