By Kendal Groner
After plans for a new church had been underway for over six years, church members of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Mission were able to see all of their hard work and fundraising efforts pay off with the groundbreaking of the new facility on Friday, Dec. 15.
Following a prayer and blessing of the new location, church leaders and community members dug their shovels into the ground at 657 N. Mohawk Drive in Erwin, where a brand new church will be sitting by this spring.
“We started with 37 members and now we have 300,” said Reverend Tom Charters, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel. “We outgrew the Elk’s Club within about a year, and then we found the place we’re at now on Jackson Love Highway and we have since outgrown that as well. We’ve had to go to two masses on weekends. We do one on Saturday and one on Sunday.”
With the help of 12 church members on the building committee, and a multitude of fundraisers and generous donations, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Mission has been able to raise around $200,000 for the new facility.
Church members have utilized just about every avenue possible to raise the funds needed to cover the construction costs. They have written letters and asked for donations, hosted tamale sales, garage sales, and participated in local festivals.
Aside from individual contributions, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic-based fraternal organization has also helped them with the financial burden.
“The rest of the funding will come from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville and the Glenmary Home Missioners,” said Charters.
Richardson Design Builders from Elizabethton is the construction company the building committee chose based on recommendations, research and speaking with at least six builders.
Charters said that Kem Richardson, the owner of Richardson Design Builders, was very generous in working with the church and designing a building that would fall within their budget.
“He worked very much with us,” Charters remarked. “He came up with one price and we said we couldn’t afford it, and then he came back with another price and we said that was still too much. So he asked us what price would work for us, and I figured at that point we wouldn’t hear from him again, but he called us back about three days later and said I have a design here for you. He really has worked hard for us.”
The new church building will have a sanctuary that can hold up to 200 people at one time, and will give the church the much-needed space to host activities and celebrations throughout the year.
“It’s going to be a one story metal building that is 5,000 square feet, and it’s about 50 percent sanctuary,” said Steve Miles, head of the building committee. “The rest will be office space, kitchens and classrooms.”
With the new facility, members of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Mission will have a place of their own to adequately house their growing membership and religious celebrations.
“This means everything … it will be our place, that’s what’s important; it’s going to be a place of the St. Michael’s the Archangels members,” Charters told The Erwin Record. “For our Lady of Guadalupe feast celebration this week we’ve always been using the YMCA every year, but the next coming year we will be able to use our own place. We will be able to have a Blessed Sacrament present for the community, where before we’ve always kept it upstairs in a side chapel so the people weren’t able to spend as much time there.”
Charters said that they feel very fortunate to be able to acquire the spot where the new church will sit and added that the people in the community have been extremely helpful from day one.
He also said that he has received a warm welcome since the first day he came to Erwin, and that people would often come up to him while he was out in public and suggest good locations for the church to be built.
“It really says a beautiful thing about this community,” he said.