ELKHART – The zing of excitement coupled with a gracious humbleness made for an emotional gathering at Granger Community (United Methodist) Church’s first service at its permanent Elkhart location Sunday morning Dec. 11.

Prior to the service, members and guests gathered to get a thorough look at the new GCC satellite campus, formerly St. John’s United Church of Christ, at 2701 E. Bristol St. The church’s main campus is in Granger. Aside from the main worship area, the Elkhart church now features a social room and a café and utilizes additional rooms for a nursery and children’s ministry rooms.

“The sense of permanence feels really good,” said Nate Stemm, who joined GCC with his wife, Jessica, five years ago. “We hope more in the community will come experience this as well, especially if it’s in their backyard.”

The Stemms, coming from Middlebury, had attended the Granger campus initially, but then began meeting with the Elkhart congregation at the much closer Carmike Encore Cinema over the past three years. More recently, the Elkhart congregation met at the RV Hall of Fame.

It was around that time that St. John’s decided to close in the midst of decreasing membership and a shrinking budget. St. John’s UCC built the church on Bristol Street in 1961 and held its last service there in July. Some members of St. John’s UCC now meet at Atria Eastlake Terrace at 3109 E. Bristol Street.

Hoping the building would remain a church, St. John’s gave the building to GCC and the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church, just as GCC had begun its search for yet another Elkhart location.

“As grand a space as the RV Hall of Fame was, we weren’t uniquely nestled in a community,” said GCC Pastor Mark Waltz.

Nov. 27 was Granger’s last service at the RV Hall of Fame. Renovations on the Bristol Street church began in August and finished in December. Julie Smies, administrative assistant to the pastor, said the church has been modernized since the original building is 50 years old.

Some of the renovations involved taking out the pews, which GCC donated to a fledgling Latino church, and donating the electric organ to Trinity Lutheran Church, replacing it with its own band.

The gift from St. John’s UCC did not go unmentioned nor unthanked.

Christmas Eve was the official grand opening of the new church.

GCC celebrated its 25th anniversary Dec. 3 and Dec. 4. It has about 5,000 members on the main Granger campus and 300 people in the Elkhart area.

This story was taken in part from The Truth of Elkhart, Ind.

“The sense of permanence feels really good”

– Nate Stemm