TOP: A rendering of the new church building.

ABOVE: Pastor Jamie Hamrick

Rocky Mount UMC embarks on faith journey

Posted at 6:58 PM on May 31, 2016

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An aerial view of the Rocky Mount United Methodist Church construction site on Perth Road.

New sanctuary, facilities designed to meet current growth, future needs

BY DEBBIE PAGE

The sense of renewal associated with spring is particularly present at Rocky Mount United Methodist Church (RMUMC) this year with the demolition of its 1978 sanctuary and the beginning of construction for expanded facilities.

A new 700-seat sanctuary, 300-seat youth space, administrative area, and classrooms will rise on Perth Road near Troutman over the summer and fall months, with occupancy planned before Christmas.

“We want our church to be an open and welcoming place,” said Pastor Jamie Hamrick. “That culture we create, the atmosphere, is what separates us from other churches. We want to be the biggest church with a small church feel that you can find.”

Rocky Mount has grown exponentially over the past decade, from 180 people attending one service to 800 people at five Sunday services. During the past few years, the church was one of the top-100 American Methodist churches in growth.

The more spacious worship area is especially important to Hamrick.

“We had to turn people away at Christmas services at NASCAR Tech, which is larger than the old sanctuary. I don’t know if someone turned away was trying church for the first time and all they heard was ‘There’s no room at the inn.’ ”

Hamrick is particularly excited about the new opportunities to reach the community for Christ. “We will have so much more room for our children’s ministries, which are huge here.”

The new playground, along the lines of the Lowe’s YMCA playground, “is going to be phenomenal,” said Hamrick. The playground, located behind the new building, will have many recreational features and will accommodate from 150 to 180 kids. “This amenity will draw many in from the community.”

“We will also be able to be more diverse in our worship services, which is important because people learn in different ways. We want to involve all of people’s senses, which we could not do in the old sanctuary,” added Hamrick.

The new sanctuary will feature a state-of-the-art video and sound system. Hamrick wants to better utilize the many talents of the congregation “to open up our creativity in reaching people for Christ.”

Elements of the previous sanctuary, including a large wooden cross, stained glass, and wood were carefully removed and preserved to be incorporated into the new building and retain a part of the church’s history. “We want the new facility to have an open, mountain lodge feel, with lots of rock and stained glass,” commented Hamrick.

Under the sanctuary will be the 300-seat youth room called “The Boathouse,” in keeping with the Lake Norman area, which will be decorated in a nautical theme. Hamrick hopes that more area teens will be drawn to the church’s active middle and high school groups in the expanded space.

Though there have been bumps along the way, including changing contractors because of vision and responsiveness differences, Hamrick said there is “an atmosphere of understanding that we are all together in this. We are flawed, but Christ is not. That understanding is part of our success in filling our church up.”

In the last decade, over half of the church’s new members had never been a member of a church. “We are seeker sensitive and want to help people grow spiritually and deepen their relationship with Christ,” the pastor said.

Part of that “seeker” philosophy played into decisions that will further open the church up to the community. The church can host more events like kindergarten graduations and meetings with the large youth area along with the current fellowship hall. “If another Hugo or other disaster happens, we could now house and feed hundreds of people in need,” said Hamrick.

He is also excited about the new community outreach, Cafe Grace, in the sanctuary’s lobby. “We will use “Have A Cup” company to create a Starbucks-type coffee bar with seating area and free wifi. Community members can drop in with friends for free coffee or have a safe place for a business appointment. Students can also meet there for study groups.”

Sue Sherrill, an attendee for all of her 82 years, embraces the exciting changes at RMUMC while reminiscing about the past. “At the first little white church on the site, we were a big family. Most of the 50 or so members were farmers and their families, who did not have telephones, so church was a time to gather and talk.”

“From the beginning of our contemporary praise services, I became a believer in growing the church,” said Sherrill. “Everyone is so happy, kind, and loving at services. I know that we are becoming the church God wants us to be.”

During the construction, services are held at NASCAR Tech each Sunday. The church currently offers four services (8:30, 9:45, and 11 a.m. in the large meeting room and a smaller, more intimate worship experience at 9:46 in the Student Lounge).

Rocky Mount averages 800 to 1,000 worshipers weekly, with over church 800 members.

Wherever church members meet, the intent is “to plant a Christ seed,” said Hamrick. He applauded the many members who arrive at 6 a.m. to set up lights, sound systems, alters, and flowers in this transition period.

“It doesn’t matter the location. The church is the people. We are still Rocky Mount, even without the steeple!” Hamrick added.

About 20 new members have joined since services moved to NASCAR Tech. Some were attracted to worship at this location because of the stigma they associated with traditional churches.

The original church, founded in 1852 at the 1739 Perth Road location, was a one-room log building built by the 37 charter members. Rapid growth required a second building by 1872.

Members next built “the little white church” in 1928 after fire destroyed the sanctuary. New additions were built over the next 50 years until the church built current sanctuary. In 2006, the church added the fellowship hall and education wing that serves more than 400 children each Sunday as well as serving as a preschool facility during the week.

LEARN MORE

• For more information, call church staff at their temporary offices (118 Morlake Drive Mooresville) at 704-528-5525.

• Link to RMUMC demolition/construction/drawings picture gallery: https://goo.gl/photos/vPz27nzuG9c1WVvc7

• Link to building progress: http://www.rockymountumc.com/new-building.html

Editor’s Note: SVLfreenews.com writer Debbie Page is a member of RMUMC.

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