Ebenezer opens Family Life Center

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 11, 2005

A vision more than a decade old has materialized in Eclipse this summer in the form of Ebenezer United Methodist Church’s new Family Life Center.

&uot;I see it as something that can bring our church and the community together,&uot; said Connie Schau, who coordinates the Ebenezer Youth Soccer League and the recently-held summer soccer camp.

That exact sentiment has been the motivation behind the Family Life Center throughout the long dreaming, planning, and construction process.

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The actual foundation for the new building that holds a basketball court, volleyball court, new classrooms, a new fellowship and dining hall, a new kitchen, and a new stage, took 11 months to complete from start to finish.

But the past 11 months have been in the making for about 12 years among the membership of Ebenezer.

The origins of the Family Life Center go back to July 1993, within the first week of Pastor Carl LeMon coming to be pastor of Ebenezer.

In Eclipse there was a tragic accident involving three children playing with a handgun.

One of the three children was fatally wounded.

&uot;Our church had a community service,&uot; said LeMon, &uot;and we talked about good and bad choices, good and bad decisions, but at the end of the service, I was stopped by our head usher and he said, ‘what options do our kids have in North Suffolk?’.&uot;

LeMon best summed up the dilemma by saying, &uot;there was no place a kid could ride a bike to.&uot;

There were a very immediate responses at the church, such as a new playground and the formation of a new youth soccer league for kids aged 4-11, which has grown from 25 kids in its first year, to now having 160 kids in the league.

But the biggest step toward the dream of what is now the newly-opened Family Life Center took shape in 1996 with the forming of a group called, &uot;The Dream Team.&uot;

An 18 month long process came up with many goals and proposals, but the focal point was the new vision for the Family Life Center.

&uot;This was truly a vision of the congregation, not the pastor,&uot; said LeMon, &uot;we anticipated the growth (in North Suffolk), instead of reacting to it.&uot;

The Dream Team’s recommendation was accepted by the congregation and became a detailed study into the possible project.

The study results were approved, leading to the hiring of actual architects and builders.

Ebenezer’s congregation has grown four times over in the 12 years from the initial dreams of such a project to the present day, part of that reason is the general population growth of North Suffolk, but a bigger reason according to Pastor LeMon is, &uot;we see ourselves as a congregation that isn’t introverted.

We want to serve others and the community, we see ourselves as outgoing and wanting to be a part of the community.&uot;

And the Family Life Center is now a huge tool for those community-oriented goals.

Through the remainder of the summer, basketball, volleyball, art, and theater camps are set for the new building.

The new stage is fully equipped with lighting and sound, and has seating room for up to 500.

Art Program Coordinator, Joann Bailey said the art camp and classes have been going on for years with a great deal of success, but the new building brings many more possibilities.

&uot;We have so much more room.

In the main church it’s been very compact,&uot; said Bailey, &uot;in the new center, we have all the room we need.

Now we can put our sign back up outside and invite more people to come into the program.&uot;

Beginning on Monday, 57 kids will be a part of the art camp, which will conclude with an open-to-the-public Art Show at 5 pm on Friday.

New classrooms in the Family Life Center are a start toward the second large long-range goal of Ebenezer, which is a new Christian Education Center.

The Family Life Center also contains a large kitchen, with which Ebenezer seeks to expand their role with the local food bank and Meals on Wheels; and handicapped shower and bath facilities, with the intent of providing shelter for the homeless, especially in the winter.

&uot;We are more able to share God’s good grace and love,&uot; said Schau, &uot;it’s a really fun place and a good place to be.

We have incredible opportunities there.&uot;