Bahai News -- Church building boom hits Plano; Lower interest rates help drive expansions

Church building boom hits Plano; Lower interest rates help drive expansions

By JASON HEID , Staff writer 12/08/2002

A construction worker puts some finishing touches on the sign of the new First United Methodist Church on Spring Creek Parkway. Greg Pearson/DFWCN photo

First United Methodist Church of Plano knew the time was right to build a new church because of lower construction costs, lower interest rates, and divine inspiration.

"Four or five years ago, when they were looking at the land and looking to make a decision, a rainbow appeared," senior pastor Gary Mueller said. "It's part of some powerful spiritual experiences they had while they were making a decision."

The appearance of that rainbow seemed to the people of First United Methodist like a promise from God that they had found their new home. A little less than $10 million and several years later, the church's new campus opens this week. They're calling it the Land of Promise.

Their new campus is one of many church expansion projects this year. The city of Plano's building inspections department lists nine churches and religious institutions either under construction or recently completed. And there are indications of several other projects on the horizon.

Among the projects under construction is a regional center for the Baha'i community of Plano. Payam Maveddat, a member of the center's building committee who has been in contact with other religious institutions about their expansion projects, said two factors seem to be driving the prevalence of religious construction in Plano.

"Most of the church and religious expansions under way are because of the attractive interest rates," he said. "That, coupled with the growth in the county, is driving the new construction."

Seeing so many projects at once may also be as much a result of the strong economic years of the late 1990s as of the lower construction costs and loan interest rates available in a weaker economy.

Tom Goetzinger, assistant to the pastor at Prince of Peace Catholic Community, said the church's new $1.3 million children's learning center was built without taking on any new debt. The capital campaign that raised money for the project was completed almost two years ago, before a slew of layoffs left many Plano residents out of work.

Collin Creek Freewill Baptist Church also completed a new children's building recently. Pastor Robert Posner said the state of the economy has been a mixed blessing for his church, which didn't complete its capital campaign before the economic downturn.

"It's kind of been a plus and a minus," he said. "It certainly has affected our income. On the other side, the interest rates right now make it better. For the next few years, it'll probably be a pretty reasonable rate."

Finding itself in a less fortunate economic situation is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, which needs to expand but has just begun its capital campaign.

Terry Wooliscroft, business manager for the parish, said the church has outgrown its education building. Despite the tough economic times, the church has to push forward with the project.

"I wish we could have finished our capital campaign four years ago," Wooliscroft said. "But we have to move forward. We need the space."

It's a need shared by many religious organizations in Collin County, who saw tremendous growth of their own during the explosive county population growth of the last decade.

The Baha'i center will be the first built in Collin County. It became necessary because of the group's 15 percent annual growth during the past eight years, Maveddat said.

Likewise, church director of communications Dana Peters said St. Andrew United Methodist Church badly needed the new sanctuary that will seat 1,600, which is to be completed in March.

The seating capacity is a significant increase over the 700 seats available in the current building.

St. Andrew launched its capital campaign just as the economic waters were getting rough in September 2000. But executive pastor Leighton Farrell said the church had to push forward with the expansion.

"I have not yet seen a good time for a church to build," Farrell said. "You just build on faith and work it out and feel it's a good thing to do."


Contact Jason Heid at 972-543-2262 or at heidj@dfwcn.com.

©Copyright 2002, Plano Star Courier (Plano, TX, USA)


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