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'The End is Near' as Gilford Community Church dedicates new facility

The congregation of Gilford Community Church enjoyed food and tours of their new facilities following a dedication of their new facilities on Sunday. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
July 22, 2009
A packed house greeted Rev. Michael Graham last Sunday as he took the pulpit for the first time in the new sanctuary of the Gilford Community Church.

The church has undergone 13 months of construction, meeting at the Gilford High School for services as the transformation took place.

"This is very impressive," the pastor joked as he addressed the overflowing assembly. "But do you know what would be more impressive? To see all of you again next Sunday at 9 o'clock."

With violin music, solo performances and trumpets and organs blaring, the Church celebrated the fruit of their labors as they watched the once small community church now become a facility for Church members, the community and especially the area youth. A new, enlarged sanctuary to meet the needs of a rising membership was only part of the plan. Peter Stewart of Stewart Associates Architects designed a complex to serve the needs of the town and all who live and worship there.

The Outreach Pantry, a spacious foyer, gathering room and coatroom comprise the new space outside the large sanctuary. Downstairs houses a Fellowship Hall, conference rooms and childcare in Amy's Room, a place for babies and toddlers during services who are not yet ready for Sunday School. The connecting Youth Center behind the main structure, now nearing its final phases of construction, will be the site of a large gym, break room, game room, equipment storage rooms, a reception room and offices for the director and staff. Fitness equipment and indoor sports will be available for people of all ages.

During the service, Director of Youth and Family Programs Scott Hodsdon gathered the children near the altar for a brief chat. He told them a story of another church expansion where a reporter wanted photos of the new church. When the reporter insisted on coming on Saturday the minister explained that he was only looking at the building. He needed to come on Sunday to see the church.

"Gilford Community Church," Hodsdon explained to the boys and girls before him, "is not defined by this beautiful building. It's defined by the people."

For his sermon, Rev. Graham presented a slide show that made the analogy of comparing the process of building all that they saw before them to the endurance of running the Boston Marathon. Each time Graham has run in the grueling event, the Citgo sign at Fenway Park signified he was almost at the end. With so much completed and only a short time more for final touches on the Youth Center, Graham informed the congregation that they had "just passed the Citgo sign."

A photo from the marathon of encouraging onlookers holding a sign that read "The End is Near" flashed on the screen. Gilford Community Church, Graham told everyone, needed to stay strong for that last stretch to the finish line - the end was indeed near for them, too.

Laconia Savings Bank donated $100,000 to the Youth Center, Graham announced. Their donation was made in honor of Sandra and Carroll Stafford, whose passion for youth in the area inspired them to contribute to the new center. Graham expressed his gratitude for the funds and told the congregation that it was gifts, both large and small, that built all that spread before them on the grounds that day. He asked to hear from anyone else who could help out, even if it was only to hold the proverbial sign that the end was indeed near.

"Everyone here has something they can contribute," he said, "even if it is only encouragement to make it to the end."

Walter Flinn, chairman of the Expansion Committee, came forward to officially present the keys for the facility to Graham and was met with a round of applause for the committee's work and dedication to the project.

The Youth Center is scheduled to open in time for fall sports. Anyone wishing to make a donation or contribution of any size is asked to contact the Gilford Community Church at 524-6057.

"Let's finish strong," Graham asked the congregation. "This morning we are closer than ever."

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