By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
New Albany will celebrate its bicentennial in 2013. But a church, which has been around the downtown area almost as long, will have its own celebration Sunday morning.
And there is a lot to celebrate.
Not only will St. Marks United Church of Christ celebrate its 175th anniversary in New Albany, but also the renovation of the education building which sits next to the church at 222 E. Spring St.
The final punch list on the renovation work was completed earlier this month, and Sunday will be unveiled to the congregation and public.
“It looks great,” said Nick Cortolillo, a member of the church’s capital campaign committee and a church elder. “It’s everything we had hoped it would be. We are using the 175th anniversary as a way to show off the renovations.”
Following the 10:30 a.m. worship service, there will be a celebration luncheon which will feature a few guest speakers inside the newly renovated building. The public is invited to the event.
St. Marks was founded in 1837 and the current church was constructed in 1957.
“We are really excited about it,” said John Manzo, pastor at St. Marks. “The church has been in downtown New Albany for 175 years and that is really something. It should be a great event.”
Manzo said four former pastors of the church will be in attendance Sunday.
The church’s ongoing mission work led to the renovation of the education building. During a 12-month period, approximately 5,200 meals were served in the church’s Saturday soup kitchen and 22,000 articles of clothing were given away at the St. Marks Community Clothes Closet. The clothes closet opens at 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays and the soup kitchen begins serving meals at noon.
The recently completed work expanded the kitchen and clothes closet areas and an elevator was installed. Renovation work touched every area of the building. The cost of the work was $1.9 million and according to the church’s October newsletter, more than $1.3 million in capital campaign pledges have already been made.
Manzo said his church is mission oriented from participating in Repair Affair to running its weekly clothes closet and soup kitchen. He said last Saturday 200 blankets were handed out to the needy.
“It’s really a busy day,” he said of the weekly event. “It requires a lot of people to work it. We have a lot of volunteers.”
Cortolillo said the clothes closet area has doubled in size. The clothes are sorted in the basement of the building and thanks to the new elevator, are brought up to the first floor area where those in need can get what they want.
One of the major expenses of the renovation was the installation of a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, or HVAC, system for the building which was constructed in 1968. The church decided to install a geothermal unit. Pipes were installed under the church’s parking lot and ran under Third Street into the building.
Cortolillo said he hopes the renovation of the building and ongoing mission work will help bring in new families. There is also a new family oriented program called Logos which will be launched early next year.
Manzo said he is excited about younger families who have recently joined his church.
“We have a lot of older members but we have had a influx of young families and that has been a really neat thing,” he said.