By Alan Sorensen
It's looking more and more like a church.
And come Fourth of July weekend, finished or not, Fifth Avenue Christian Church in Havre will be the site of an all-year reunion of Sixth Avenue Christian Church parishioners.
"They're starting to swing those trusses into place now and it's starting to take shape," Pastor Jack Rampelberg said recently. "We're about in the middle of the project and timewise, too."
The relocation committee meets as regularly as possible, Rampelberg said, considering that the members are scattered throughout north central Montana. Campaign co-directors Ken and Linda Kiemele live in Havre and Cal and Aileen Couch live north of town. Other members are Don Bitz of Box Elder, Randy Hinebaugh from west of Chinook and Lyle Williams from north of Kremlin.
"We have to arrange it so everyone on the relocation committee heading this thing up can get together," Rampelberg said.
This winter's unusually warm and dry weather has facilitated the building's construction.
"We've certainly been blessed with a good winter to work," he said. "Everything is coming together just well."
It hasn't hurt the church's continuing fund-raising efforts, either. The final cost is anticipated to be between $1.2 million and $1.3 million
"We're still getting funds and it's in at the rate that we anticipated it would," Rampelberg said. "We've brought in more than half of it now in the bank."
When completed, the new church on the south end of Fifth Avenue hence the name change will have an ample number of pews in the sanctuary.
"We'll have seating room for about 500 people using the balcony for about 100," Rampelberg said. "The all-purpose room would probably seat 300, 350 with tables and chairs and stuff."
The building will contain a total of 18 different rooms including classrooms, three offices with secretary, and a work room.
"It will have a good-sized kitchen at 850 square feet." Rampelberg said.
The church, whose entrance will be on Fifth Avenue, will have about 100 parking spaces to start with, Rampelberg said, with another 88 to be added later.
"The building itself is going to look big, with 25-foot ceilings," Rampelberg said. "The cross will be about 50 feet high."
The church's main entrance will be on the south side of the building, with the auditorium to the left (west) of the vestibule and the multi-purpose room will be on the right (east). Pastor Hutton's office will be to the left of the entrance and the secretary's will be to the right. Two more offices will be on the second floor above the entrance.
First- and second-floor bathrooms will be on the north side of the open entry, along with a total of 12 over and under classrooms. The first classroom to the north of the vestibule will be the nursery, Rampelberg said.
When the new church finally opens for full services in late summer or early fall, it will hold two morning services every Sunday.
"There will be two services because we have people who are trained to go to the early service," Rampelberg said. "It should be spacious so you're not going to feel crowded."
Rampelberg said the main foyer will open onto the multipurpose room to alleviate any bottlenecks as people exit the church.
"One of the things that's been pushing us is we have a family reunion planned for July 4 weekend," Rampelberg said. "All past youth groups and everyone are invited. We want to be far enough along that we can use the building."
Rampelberg said the weekend will be a rallying time with numerous activities planned. Everyone who has ever been a member of the congregation or attended the church is invited to return to the church for the weekend.
"The people of the past have continued to mean a lot to the church, the history of the church," Rampelberg said.
People who have moved away, kids who have grown up, and past parishioners who still live in the Havre area but have stopped attending for one reason or another are welcome to the holiday gathering.
"It sounds like the Holy Spirit is working real well with this," Rampelberg said.
"Part of it's just a welcome home reunion," Pastor Rowlie Hutton said. "A number of families in Havre that used to go Sixth Avenue and don't anymore are welcome back. The door's open and the red carpet's been laid out."
The people who are contributing to the construction of the new church are "standing on their shoulders," Hutton said of the former parishioners.
"There's a saying," Hutton said. "For one generation to be successful, another generation had to sacrifice."
The ceiling beams above the auditorium will be capable of shouldering quite a load themselves as they each weigh 4,174 pounds.
For the second year in a row, the Sixth Avenue Christian Church will hold its Easter Service in the Havre High School Theater. Pastor Hutton said hosting the service on neutral ground will help the congregation get the feel for the larger services that it will enjoy in the new building.