The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 14, 2013

Morey Chapel Church gets bright, fresh look


WESTVILLE — The congregation at the Morey Chapel Church of Christ knows the power of faith. Even in a poor economy, the members undertook a big project — to completely renovate the inside of the church, which was opened in 1898.

“Every time we’ve stepped out in faith, the Lord has blessed us,” said Pat Sollars, church secretary and a member since 1978. “It’s a true sign of faith.”

Starting with the heating system, the work began last December and was completed Jan. 28. During that short time, workers gutted, rewired, insulated and installed plaster board, and cleaned the carpet.

While the renovation was going on, the congregation met in the fellowship hall.

To celebrate the church’s facelift, there will be an open house from 2-4 p.m. Sunday. People are invited to stop in to see the changes, view old photos, meet the members and enjoy refreshments.

The interior of the church has been the same since the 1970s and earlier. In the ‘70s, a false ceiling was put in, along with drop lamps, and pews replaced the wooden schoolhouse-type chairs.

One major change was to take out the drop ceiling, and restore the original 16-foot ceiling and dome. Workers received a surprise when they found a 12-foot chimney in the ceiling. When a new roof was put on years earlier, someone had taken off the top of the chimney, left the middle and then put the roof over it.

“We’re thankful it didn’t fall in,” Sollars said.

Workers also removed all of the paneling and tore out the plaster walls, blew insulation into the walls and plastered the walls. They discovered a strong inner foundation, with tongue-and-groove boards, which has helped the church remain intact for more than 100 years.

Ceiling fans and recessed lights were added.

One of the more striking changes was renovation of the baptistery. The baptismal font had 30-plus cracks in it, due to chipmunks digging below, said longtime member Dick Blakeney.

That was replaced, and an etching of a tree and words were added to the wall behind it. A railing from the late 1800s was set above the baptistery.

Sollars said the congregation wanted to keep as many of the original touches as possible, while modernizing it. A cross made by Walt Wingler in the 1960s is a centerpiece, and the original bell and rope are still used. The stained glass windows were untouched.

A wooden table and chairs donated by a Hoopeston church and the lectern, which was restored earlier by Sollars, still grace the sacristy.

The church paid to have the work done — $80,000, which came from donations and a loan — although volunteers did odd jobs, Sollars said. Contractor was White Construction of Georgetown.

“When things fall into place, we figure God has a hand in it,” Sollars said.

She hopes others see that even when money is tight, congregations need to have faith that the work will be done. “Have faith that you can do it, then step up and do it,” she said.

Blakeney added, “We’re doing it for his glory — we’re stepping up for God.”

The church has made other changes in the past. In 1999, a hailstorm damaged the roof and siding; the next year, the church installed a new roof, siding and a well.

In 2002, the kitchen was built on, and a large fellowship room, 30-by-30 square feet, which seats 65-90 people. The church also has three classrooms and a hallway covered with members’ paint handprints.

The church has 150-175 members on the books, with an average weekly attendance of 60-70 people. Pastor is Dan Ziebart of Veedersburg, Ind.

Morey Church was founded in 1895 as a Methodist Episcopal Church, and is named after minister M.S. Morey; the building was dedicated in 1898. The church sat vacant several years in the 1950s, but minister Harold Miller was instrumental in reopening it in 1968 as a Church of Christ.

The church owes its longevity to the several generations that attend, Sollars said. Sometimes, four generations from the same family attend on Sundays.

Although small, the church has a Vacation Bible School; gospel sings on the fourth Saturday of each month, except in the winter; active youth, women’s and men’s groups; and food pantry. It also supports missions in Haiti and Asia.

Sunday school is at 9 a.m., followed by the regular service at 10 a.m. and Bible study at 6:30 p.m.

Coming up

An open house to show off the newly renovated Morey Chapel Church of Christ will be 2-4 p.m. Sunday. Photos will be on view and refreshments available.

The church is located 2 1/2 miles east of Westville on the road leading to Forest Glen (County Road 5). At the third curve, you’ll see a sign for the church to the left, at County Road 1100 North.

For directions, call the church at 267-7908.