By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor

Fifteen years after the vision of the new facility was first shared, Jewel City Ministries is in the last lap, finishing all the final details in preparation to celebrate their grand opening next Sunday, October 15th.
Pictured here, crews are still working to finish the flooring on the massive sanctuary’s stage. Comfortable theater seating will accommodate 1,400 people with elevation and angling of seating offering a direct view of the podium from any seat in the house.

The clock is ticking!  Work crews and volunteers are busy finishing all the last-minute details, making sure every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed before the long-awaited grand opening of Jewel City Ministries’ new worship facility in Maulsby Cove.

They will officially open their doors on Sunday, October 15th at 10:00 a.m.  And needless to say, the volume on the ‘excitement’ knob is turned up to the maximum level!

This project has been a long time coming.  The church has worked toward this goal since Senior Pastor Robert Shingleton first shared his vision of building this facility with church leaders 15 years ago.  His vision was supported; none seemed to doubt that even such a tremendously large undertaking could be achieved when working together as a family of disciples.

Who would know better what faith can bring about than  Pastor Shingleton?  He has witnessed it ever since he began delivering his messages nearly 24 years ago in the former Action Chevrolet Garage on Haywood Road.

“Back then, when all this got started, I had 23 people attending services there – and that number included the children. We were so poor, we couldn’t afford song books; we printed the words to our music out on paper!” he  recalled.  “But, in time, we began to grow … and our church was built on Haywood Road … and we expanded it several times to accommodate our needs.”

And now, yet another move to a larger facility is about to occur.  However, the planning was arduous with church staff and board members taking several trips to numerous mega churches throughout the country to visit their facilities.

“We didn’t go to envy what they had built; we were just on an idea search and our goal was to gain as much knowledge as possible from others before we began,” he added.  “Our visits were always valuable learning experiences.”

For Pastor Shingleton, as opening day approaches, it often seems like a dream come true, but the dream is real – thanks largely, he says, to a great team of very giving parishioners who apparently have a multitude of talents!

“Church administrator Mike Hill offered to act as our general contractor.  Although he had never done anything like this before, he had a degree in business and felt he could handle it, so we let him take the reins and he’s done a wonderful job,” Pastor Shingleton stated.  “And there have been others within our church who have stepped forward in leadership roles during this building process and it has saved us a lot.  Another of those people would be Duane Blackwell, one of our church members who drew the footprint of the facility.  Thanks to his talents, we didn’t have to hire an architect.  Another church member, Paul Beverly, is a mason by trade, and he and one helper have worked for a year laying block at the new facility. Another local man, Chris Drain, along with his business partner, have done most of the construction of the interior of the whole building.  And then we have the group that we call our ‘A Team’; they have worked every Monday evening for literally months doing whatever needs to be done.  I could go on and on about our talented crews, and we’re proud to say that we have done our best to keep as much of our help ‘local’ as has been possible.”

Custom built benches are a work still in progress to provide stage-front seating in Kids Cove, an area for children 3 years to fifth grade. Benches will be painted different primary colors, denoting seating by age group.

Pastor Shingleton is quick to add that everyone involved has done everything to the best of their ability.  “We have worked hard and with a spirit of excellence, and God has certainly honored the work that has been done,” he continued.

Has patience been difficult?  YES!  However, Pastor Shingleton says that they decided in the beginning to do things in phases – one step at a time – to quench facing a huge debt.

“We had the property (115 acres) at Maulsby Cove, and as homes began to develop there, the sale of property slowly helped us to move forward with the infrastructure.  As we finally approached the site where we wanted the new church to sit, we began with Phase 1,” he said.

Phase 1 was an 18,000 square foot Family Life Center that is home to a full size gymnasium, an adjacent commercial kitchen, and a youth facility for both middle and high school age youth.  That was completed in March, 2012.

Phase 2 then became the focus – an 8,000 square foot children’s facility … and when that was fulfilled, finally, work could begin on the church itself.

Pastor Shingleton admitted, “I had to learn patience.  I had a vision and, like anyone, I was anxious to see it develop and see the results. I got maybe a little too overtaken with it and had to remind myself that you often have to wait for things to get done. My prayer is always to be a better pastor, and I decided to step back and let others take some leadership roles during the construction process.  I decided to concentrate more fully on delivering a fresh message each week that would help families … with time to visit the sick … and to reach out to help meet the needs of our community.  I let our church leaders get more involved.”

Now that it is nearing completion, what will you find when you walk through the doors of the new Jewel City Ministries church?  You will find a facility with 58,000 square feet under its roof … a facility that is completely state-of-the-art.  And it is evident that nothing was overlooked in the planning process.  Let’s just take a quick tour ……

Paving was underway this week to complete the parking lot that will accommodate 275 parking places.  They have already determined that will not be enough, so additional ground will soon be prepared for more parking.

The front foyer is large and serves as a welcome center.  A beautiful area decorated with a rustic yet contemporary feel, there are upholstered chairs as well as long tables with high-seated chairs sitting in front of an electric fireplace.  Adjacent to this is a café where coffee, juice, fresh fruit and donuts will be available to those who arrive early for services and want time to enjoy fellowship with one another.

A large space called the ‘Kids Cove’ is devoted to activities and lessons for ages three through 5th grade.  It is sure to capture the attention of children and engage their interest!  A real tree trunk cut from a local farm and measuring 25 feet high centers the room and a treehouse has been built around it.  Ipads have been installed on a wall, and there, children can sit atop smaller tree trunks and play appropriate games like Bible trivia or watch Biblical-themed videos.

There is also a stage in this area where kids may participate in plays, and the area includes a store as well that will function as a place to shop.  Children can earn rewards through faithful attendance, good behavior and learning their Bible lessons.  Tokens can be redeemed in the store for such items as stuffed animals and other small trinkets.

An added little surprise for kids is a chute that runs from the treehouse back into the Front Foyer area; when parents return to pick them up after services, they can exit Kids Cove by sliding down the chute!  Now, what child wouldn’t enjoy a fantasy area like this?

Pastor Shingleton said he is still a kid a heart sometimes himself, and he has enjoyed watching this area take shape.  “I may find it a struggle to keep parents from wanting to stay in this area during church time!” he joked.

A separate nursery area was also built for ‘wee’ ones.  It, too, is inviting with an entire wall featuring an engaging, colorful mural.  Even a private room was set aside and furnished with a rocking chair for nursing mothers to utilize.

Notice the real 25’ tree trunk begins on the first floor of Kids Cove and extends up through the flooring of the treehouse. This area, too, offers “trunk seating” on the treehouse deck … an area that can be used for storytelling.

There are classrooms for adults, for middle/high school age youth; special rehearsal areas for the choir and the worship dance team; office space for church administrators; and a few areas that can serve multi-purposes such as to house board meetings or a place where special visiting artists can relax.

The sanctuary has a little over 1,000 permanent seats, with available room in the back for an additional 400 portable seats.  Seating is upholstered and theater style with seats both elevated and angled so that every seat has a direct view of the podium.  The main stage is large enough to accommodate the choir, the band … and even cars can be driven on the stage for special events thanks to a rear entrance equipped with a garage door.

All restrooms are handicapped accessible; special security systems have been installed; and numerous church volunteers received training so that in the event of a medical emergency, help could be offered while awaiting EMS arrival.

The new facility is fully Wifi wired and televisions have been installed throughout.  A fully equipped and intricately wired media room allows them to be able to video and broadcast their Sunday worship services.  No amenity has been spared!

“This is not our destiny; this is just the beginning.  We have more visions that we are hoping to see come to fruition in the future,” Pastor Shingleton noted.

Despite the immensity of this project, Jewel City Ministries has continued to contribute to mission opportunities throughout the world, and they have exhibited a strong presence in local community outreach projects.

“I have to emphasize that although we are extremely proud of our new facility, it is just a building.  It is what goes on within its wall and reaching out to people that really matters most.  Our church is a ‘family’, and we love one another.  To apply mathematics to the equation, it is not about membership addition, but multiplying the number of Christian disciples and servants who walk out of our doors and want to make a difference in our world that is most important,” he stressed.

Pastor Shingleton concluded, “Sometimes I come in here late in the evening all alone and I am so overwhelmed by how God has blessed us.  He can do such amazing things.  And it seems that the more we do for others, the more He blesses us.  I am convinced that it is impossible to out-give the Lord!”

The congregation of Jewel City Ministries extends a welcoming invitation to anyone who would like to attend the celebration of their first worship service at their new facility next Sunday, October 15th at 10 a.m.