The Church That Love Built

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It is an old-fashioned tradition: the men of a congregation literally building their church.

It is a tradition the men of Payson's Rock of Ages Lutheran Church have been living daily since shortly after the first of the year.

A group of men, with an average age of 70, from the congregation have been raising up the new sanctuary at 204 W. Airport Road, next to their existing church.

They have been sustained in their work by the ladies of the church, who have been fixing their lunches every day since the project started.

Darwin Bacon, one of the volunteers, said the men have been threatening to keep working on the project for another year so they continue having the good lunches.

The lunches are scheduled to end in late August. The new sanctuary dedication is at 4 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 25, according to the church's pastor, Dave Sweet.

While the men of the congregation started construction just after the first of the year, the church's full membership has been raising funds for the project since 1998, Bacon said.

The volunteers include four to eight men, depending on the job, plus four part-time volunteers.

Not all the work could be done by volunteers though. The building committee decided what they wanted the structure to look like and the services it needed to house and then had a Phoenix architect draft the actual plans. Subcontractors were hired to build the foundation, put in the plumbing, wiring and do the roofing. The paving will also be done with a subcontractor.

Bacon said with the crew the age it is, he did not want them on the roof.

One of the most distinctive features of the church is its stone work, both inside and out. This craftsmanship was a gift from Kenneth Lawson, the son-in-law of one of the congregation, who left his business in Oregon for three weeks to do the work. Also contributing to the stone work was Berry Hoff of Strawberry, Bacon said.

"Many, many people have contributed in some way to the construction of the building and the things within it," Bacon said.

He said Ron Stoner of Foxworth Galbraith has done a tremendous job in keeping the volunteers supplied with the materials they have needed. The church purchased these of course, but an extra effort was made to get them to the project on time and iron out any glitches that occurred, Bacon said.

"It has been a labor of love. It has also been a lot of fun and we have all enjoyed the camaraderie. It has been a wonderful project all the way, with lots of encouragement from throughout the community as well," Bacon said.

Rev. Sweet is very proud of his congregation and their new church. He said it will have stained glass and the crosses on the outside of the building were specially made by some of the crew.

He said it is very rare for churches to have volunteers from the congregation do most of the building when a new facility is constructed. They made it possible to build the 5,000 square foot structure for under $400,000.

He invites everyone to attend the dedication of Rock of Ages Lutheran Church's new sanctuary at 4 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 25.

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