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‘I think God was very good to us’: Kingston United Methodist rebuilding to be done in October

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By Katie Hogin

Change is in the air at Kingston United Methodist Church.

After fire engulfed the sanctuary April 30, church leaders and members have been coordinating details in the rebuilding process.

Rebuilding is estimated to be completed in October (“It could be sooner or later – I don’t know,” Pastor John Anderson said), and the church’s insurance coverage has taken care of all the more than $1 million in damage.

“I think God was very good to us,” pastor John Anderson said.

He added that the church only has to pay an estimated $1,000 deductible.

Had the damage, which included the sanctuary and education annex, been more extensive, the church would not have had enough coverage.

With the church in three different parts, the main sanctuary was completely destroyed, along with damage in the education wing and minor damage in the office wing.

Since the fire over two months ago, Anderson has coordinated details of the renovation with church members, ensuring the congregation has a word in the process.

“I think that what I really care about is people having something they’re happy with and something that is beautiful and they’re proud of.”

Anderson remains thankful to all the fire departments who assisted in putting out the fire.

“If it had been in some remote area where there was no fire services ... we wouldn’t have any of this,” he said. “It’d all be gone, and we would not have enough insurance to put it all back.”

Anderson has already coordinated on the different style pews and wider stage that will be included in the currently stripped and future revitalized sanctuary, along with newer lighting.

In order to brighten the sanctuary, the back wall will be white rather than the previous brick, which will accommodate a projection system.

“We’re going through a lot of adjustments and changes,” Anderson said.

And not only trying to pick out colors for a room, but from week to week putting together new plans.

“It’s kind of like this. When you go to the beach, there are palm trees ... A palm tree does a lot of good with a lot of wind because a palm tree bends this way, bends that way and can go with all the changes,” the pastor said.

“You got to be able to bend and adjust, bend and sway with things ... There’s a lot of changes we’re going through.”

Wood materials were recently delivered to the church, but construction has been put on hold for two to three weeks to get a building permit after filing incorrect paperwork.

“We’re making our way through it,” he said.

Currently, Baun Construction of Alcoa has already removed most of the slate work, and a blue tarp covers the majority of the roof.

Also included will be more up-to-date improvements, such as insulation and a newer heating and air system.

Anderson said the fire originated from the nearly 30-year-old organ in the sanctuary. He plans on talking with the organ company to figure out what precautions can be taken to prevent another electrical fire, such as providing the organ with its own outlet and protecting the wiring.

Having lost their portable electronic organ as well, Anderson recently purchased another one in Knoxville that Music Minister Wayne Duggin tested out.  

“The first song he played on it was ‘Silent Night,’” Anderson  added. “Now I said ‘I hope that won’t be the first song you play in our new sanctuary.’ I said ‘I hope it’s before that. But if it’s ‘Silent Night’ at Christmas, OK, we’ll be all right,’ but I’m hoping we’ll have it by October.”

Since the fire, Kingston United Methodist has conducted 8:30 a.m. Sunday services at Bethel Presbyterian next door and last week had moved their other 10:30 service to Kingston United Methodist’s ministry center after going without for a few weeks.

“We felt like we were hurting them,” Anderson said. “We didn’t want to run up their utilities. We care about them.”

With construction and progress currently in the works, Anderson looks forward to the new updates.

“The good thing about this is that we’re getting some new stuff that with advancements will work more efficiently,” Anderson said.

“When it’s all said and done, our hope is to have a better building. Not only looking prettier, brighter or colorful, but hopefully more efficient.”