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Posted on Sun, Sep 26, 2010 : 11:30 a.m.

First United Methodist Church addition accommodates its growing congregation

By Tara Cavanaugh


The new addition at the First United Methodist Church of Saline.

Joe Sharp | For

After nearly two years of construction, the First United Methodist Church of Saline is enjoying the fruits of its labor.

The church showed off its $1.75 million addition with an open house for the community last Sunday.

The 10,500-square-foot space includes a larger fellowship hall for receptions, an elementary school-sized gym, showers and a new youth area complete with a stage and sound system.


The new gymnasium space at the First United Methodist Church of Saline.

Joe Sharp | For

The addition will accommodate the growth of the church, said the Rev. Laura Speiran. The 177-year-old congregation moved from downtown Saline to its current location on Ann Arbor Street in 1990. Back then, it had 200 members. Now it has 950.

The original building was 22,000 square feet. In 2005, the church added a 5,600-square-foot Christian education wing with classrooms. But the growing congregation still needed more room.

The addition was only possible with the help of a private foundation, “which came as a complete surprise,” Speiran said. In early 2008, the church decided to hold off on any additions because of the poor economy. But in May that year, a foundation said it would match the funds the church raised, as long as the church raised more money by September.

The church held a “Miracle Sunday” event that September and raised $870,000 in donations.

“It’s amazing to me how it all happened,” Speiran said, especially because the economy tanked the very next month. “We have been very happy that we’ve been able to be building when the economy is in such dire straits.”

The new youth area, in the basement of the new addition, is at least three times larger than the old space where youth activities were held in the basement of the original building. The youth area includes a large kitchen, a stage, surround sound speakers, black café tables and big black couches. The room can be split into two for junior and senior high events.

“Here we can get together and worship without stepping on each other,” Emily Krach, the youth director, said. Krach estimated 80 teens participate in the church's youth programming.


Standing outside the new addition to the church are, from left, the Rev. Laura Speiran; youth director Emily Krach; and Pastor Jim Tuttle.

Joe Sharp | For

Speiran’s 16-year-old daughter Rebecca was hanging out with a friend in the new youth area on Sunday. “I’m really excited about it. It looks really good,” she said. “It’s just exciting to have a space that’s really all our own, and that they made specifically for us.”

The addition also included showers. When traveling for mission trips, youth groups often stay at different churches along the way to save on travel costs, Krach said. Church youth groups like to return the favor to one another, and having showering facilities to offer to traveling guests is especially helpful.

The new facility won’t only benefit the church members. Speiran said the church hosts Boy and Girl Scout meetings, nonprofit and community groups and functions as a voting site. The church is also used for many weddings and funerals.

“It’s one of the things I appreciate about this place. The doors are open,” Speiran said. “I think it’s often the perception of a church that nobody can come in, but that’s not the case here.”

The additions were not an easy undertaking. There were some problems that delayed the end date from November of 2009 to September 2010. The amount of construction meant that the church was without a fellowship hall for a year. “It hasn’t been without its headaches, as building projects always are. But we’re happy to finally be in,” Speiran said. The hall and gym opened in June, and the youth area opened last week.

The new hall and gym can accommodate up to 270 people seated at eight-person tables, said Dale Adkins, who helped plan and build the addition.

Church member Ann Graber said she likes that the small gym shares a wall with the fellowship hall so it can be opened up if the hall gets too full. “I was really impressed with that feature the most,” she said. “And of course the young people’s room. We need a place for our young people to stay centered and focused on the good things in life.”

“It’s taken a lot of contributions from a lot of people,” Krach said about the expanded space. “And we’re just excited about how we can contribute now that’s happened.”

Tara Cavanaugh is a freelance writer for, focusing on Saline.