Pierce’s Potential - The Echo News

Pierce’s Potential

UMC’s new building is under construction

Marian Douglas | Echo

Pastor Rob Neel stands in front of Pierce-Governor’s safe room, UMC's future prayer room.

Pastor Rob Neel stands in front of Pierce-Governor’s safe room, UMC’s future prayer room.

After over a century in the same building, Upland United Methodist Church (UMC) is moving to a new location, the site of the former Pierce-Governor factory which closed in 2011.

In an Echo article from last April, project director Tammara Neel said Leland E. Boren donated the factory to the church five years ago. UMC began renovating the old factory last September.

According to UMC’s website, the Pierce Project is “a multi-phased transformation—taking an old, dead factory and turning it into a

welcoming space for the gathering of God’s people and sharing of the Gospel.”

Church members have helped with the renovations in order to help keep costs down, doing such work as helping remove old light fixtures.  

“Several Sunday afternoons have been dedicated to cleaning up the building, taking out walls, other appliances and more,” Senior Kelley McKaig said. A regular attendee of UMC for the last four years, McKaig hasn’t been able to help with these afternoons, but she has seen the video clips the church shows during services of all the work that members are doing.

The Pierce factory, at 45,000 square feet, is three times larger than the church’s building on Washington Street.

Currently, most of the facility looks like many construction projects—pipes and bars outline future rooms, and the ceiling and floor are exposed.

UMC’s senior pastor, Rob Neel, described what each pipe-outlined space will be, including a chapel, a larger auditorium and a prayer room, among other spaces whose purposes have yet to be defined.

The new prayer room will be made from a concrete room that was apparently not on the blueprint when demolition began.

“It’s where Pierce kept the safe, also where they would go if there was a storm since it’s made of solid concrete.” Neel said. The staff at Upland UMC decided a room built for storms was the perfect place to weather out spiritual tempests.

The words “May the Lord build this House” are written on the front wall of the prayer room as are messages from UMC attendees who visited the lot last year. From the concept pictures, it looks like those walls will remain in view once construction is complete.

Neel thought the large back room would be of special interest to Taylor students. UMC is considering creating a destination for college students in the space.

“College students have a lot of marketing power. What if we made this a destination and we had students come here?” Neel said, regarding potential plans for the room. “Indoor go-kart, indoor paintball, drone racing, indoor driving range for golf—We don’t know, but we would like to have a financial engine to help offset some of the costs of the building.”

Currently, the space is being used as storage for the church. An eclectic assortment of items, including Taylor’s old chapel chairs, fill the space. “We’re dumpster divers,” Neel joked. Then he clarified, “We’re trying to be good stewards of God’s resources.”

UMC also plans to hold their monthly college lunches on this new campus with the aid of a new industrial kitchen. Currently, college lunches are held in either the church’s basement or Neel’s home at least once a month and are free to students who attend the preceding service.

There is already a walled-in room where the kitchen will be, which serves as the break area for the on-site workers. UMC tries to provide a meal for their workers daily, but when that is not possible they at least try to bring a snack. This is not required of the church, but Neel views it as important:

“These workers are people who Jesus loves just as much as you and me—so how can we love them?”

The new facility will also include a venue area, which has already been used once for the wedding of Neel’s son, David Neel (’15), to Kaitlin Kinney (’16) Neel . The space is still set up from the event, which happened this summer, with white streamers hanging from the ceiling and chalkboard signs celebrating the happy couple.

UMC is unsure when the new building will open. At one point, Neel had hoped the building would be open by Labor Day, but that seems unlikely now. The church does, however, plan to have the children’s wing complete so they can move in their preschool, Kiddie Kampus, by the beginning of the school year.

“The rest of the timeline is up in the air,” said Neel. He and the rest of UMC look forward to when they can see the potential of this new facility realized.

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