We realize the importance of having a respectable place of worship. In the "Testimonies" we are taught very plainly that we show our reverence or lack of reverence by the kind of building we use as a house of worship. (See Volume II, page 257.) I am sure all will agree that in some instances our places of worship, instead of showing our reverence for sacred things, stand as witnesses of our lack of reverence. What a shame that an old, weather-beaten, unpainted structure, parts of which are rotting away, should be used as a Seventh-day Adventist church ! This should not be. If the members of such a church were asked why the building had been neglected, their reply would no doubt be that they did not have the money to maxe repairs. Yet doubtless each of the members himself lives in a respectable home, comfortably furnished, and with a number of modern, up-to-date conveniences.
I recognize that in some places it is a difficult problem to provide and maintain a suitable place of worship. The great majority of our members are not of the wealthy class, and they give a larger percentage of their wages into the treasury of the Lord than do the members of other church organizations. But somehow we must avoid bringing disgrace to our denomination. By tact and prayer we must help all to see the importance of keeping our church buildings in good repair and representative of our faith.
What I shall say will be based on what I have learned from the trial-and-error method which I recently employed in Alton, Illinois. About a year ago our building in Alton, which we had purchased at a very low price, needed just about everything in the way of remodeling and repairing. The auditorium was almost square, and the great high ceiling and the balcony absorbed all the heat from the furnace. It was a good, substantial, well-constructed brick building, but it had been sadly neglected for several years. When we began to plan what would be done, the immensity of the task seemed almost overwhelming.
We knew but little about remodeling. However, we studied the whole problem carefully and developed some definite ideas as to what should be done. Several contractors were consulted regarding the best procedure, the kind of materials that should be used, and the most economical ways of carrying out our plans. It is always wise to consult skilled laborers in matters of this kind. We are ministers trained by profession, and contracting and architecture are entirely different lines of work from the ministry. A little mistake in design or in construction may seriously affect the appearance and success of the results. It is wise to make friends with some men in these professions, and seek their counsel. I found such men friendly and willing to help in many ways, without charge.
After being assured that we were working along the right lines, I went to a first-class carpenter, and together we drew the plans for remodeling. I then presented the plans to the church body, and they were unanimously accepted. A list of separate jobs, with the estimated cost of each, was made up and posted in the church. Some of these were constructing a lower ceiling, sloping down to the tops of the window frames; enclosing the balcony; building two rooms in the front on either side of the platform, one for the baptistry; enlarging the platform and placing an arch above it; redecorating the entire auditorium; putting in a new floor, which was to be finished with a clear varnish, after sanding; removing all old varnish from the woodwork and refinishing it; covering the roof with fiber coating; building a steeple on top of the church; giving the outside woodwork three coats of paint; tuck pointing and painting the entire outside; and putting up new gutters. Aside from these jobs there were a number of other items that had to receive attention, such as installing a baptismal tank and a heater, and purchasing platform furniture, suitable seats, and another piano.
It was voted by the members that these jobs would be done in the order listed, but that no job would be started until there were sufficient funds in the treasury to pay for it. At times the enthusiasm ran a little higher than the funds in the treasury, and in their anxiety to see the work completed, some wanted to adopt the "pay-later" plan. But we adhered closely to the "pay-as-you-go" plan. Had we not done this, I feel sure we would still be making payments.
As another suggestion for getting a remodeling or repair job done quickly, let the preacher put on his overalls and stay by until it is completed. I had to give daily personal supervision to the work, order all the materials, and secure donated help. Great care must be taken in building scaffolds, so that the danger of injury to the workmen is lessened, and the workmen must frequently be warned to be careful. It is wise to select young, sure-footed men for the high climbing.
We organized the church members into four bands for raising money. Each band was assigned something definite to do. Personal solicitation was made of the business houses and service stations in the city. Friendly competition was encouraged. This worked quite successfully for a while. Then interest began to wane, and we reorganized the entire church under the leadership of the Dorcas Society. At the close of each month a bulletin was passed to each member which contained the names and the amount contributed or raised by each, and the hours worked by those who donated labor. We found the women willing to do their part in the work. In fact, some of them were more willing to work than some of the men.
A little later, as a means of reviving the interest, we organized again, this time dividing the church into two bands, the Northerners and the Southerners. It was stated that $60 would be required to buy new glass for all the windows in the auditorium. The band that first succeeded in reaching its goal of $30 would have the glass placed in the windows on their side of the building first. Everyone worked wholeheartedly, and in less than a week the Northerners had their $30. The Southerners had theirs about two days later. The glass was put in immediately. This plan of reorganizing was an excellent way of keeping interest and enthusiasm alive.
We had various kinds of sales, selling doughnuts, pastry, fancywork, and candy, all of which helped to keep the treasury replenished. Also, we secured permission from the city officials to have a tag day. Our women members were stationed all over the city, and at the end of the day it was found we had gathered in about $125 by this means.
I found it to be a profitable plan to show to our business friends the list of jobs to be done and the list of items to be purchased, and to say, "Now which item would you like to pay for?" I also showed it to individuals in the church who had some means, saying, "Now as you come to church and sit own, just what would you like to feel you had purchased and placed in the church?" It was surprising how rapidly the items were checked off the list; and when finally the last one was checked off, what a great surge of gratitude and thanksgiving swept over our hearts !