Dear First Lutheran Family,

Several things have been happening since our decision last week to close our sanctuary and fellowship hall due to structural concerns with the building.

Building Task Force & Next Steps

Task force: We appointed a task force, led by Troy Whitehill, which includes Paul Berland, Ben Grimstad, Larry Grimstad and David Carlson. This group is working under the direction and in partnership with the council executive committee. This group is deliberately small to allow them to work nimbly and take steps to secure our building as quickly as possible.

The scope of the task force’s work is to serve as a liaison between the contractor and the council, make short-term recommendations regarding the safety and stability of the building, secure assets (organ, pews, pianos, altar, etc.) in the church and fellowship hall, and make financial recommendations to cover any costs to do so.

Their scope of work does not include longer-term recommendations about the building or any construction or reconstruction; that work will involve a larger team that will be appointed in the future. The task force has been quick and thorough in their response, and we thank them for their help.

Building evaluation: The final report from the contractor and engineer confirmed their concerns about the structural integrity of the church building, specifically the roof and the walls of the sanctuary. The walls are showing significant outward displacement (meaning they are bending outward) because of issues with the roof.

The roof’s main rafters are showing twisting, bowing, bending, cracking and splitting, which is putting pressure on the walls. The cracking and obvious movement of the structure seem to have been progressing at a faster rate over the past six months, making the building unsafe due to fear of collapse. Winter weather changes such as heavy snowfall and wind have potential to make the situation worse. The contractor and engineer do not believe the existing roof can be fixed.

Building stabilization: The task force recommended the church council approve the contractor and engineer’s recommendation to stabilize the building by drilling into the church walls and installing tension ties across the sanctuary space. This will stabilize the building so monitors can be installed to evaluate any further movement of the building. Unfortunately, it will not make the building safe enough to occupy for regular activities.

Council approval of recommendation: The church council unanimously approved the proposal and the expenditure, which is estimated between $30,000-$35,000. Work is expected to begin next week.

Worship & Church Activities

Worship/Programming: The pastors and staff are working tirelessly to plan worship for the month of December and take steps to continue regular programming in January. Our plan is to continue with our regular three worship services and education schedule in January with as few modifications as possible.

Please remain patient and appreciate the complexity of this work. There are many factors to consider, such as accessibility, parking, availability, capacity and ability to move supplies and equipment to multiple sites. Our goal is to have an update for you regarding a long-term plan for where we will worship and host education and other programs within the next few weeks.

Christmas Eve Worship: Christmas Eve worship services will be held in the Noble Recital Hall in the Jenson-Noble Hall of Music at Luther College at 3:00 p.m. (Family), 5:00 p.m. (New Song), and 7:00 p.m. (Traditional). We are blessed that Luther is allowing use of this space on a holiday. Because the capacity of this recital hall is smaller than the capacity of our sanctuary, we encourage people who usually attend the early service to consider worshiping at either of the later services to ensure that we are able to accommodate all worshipers in the space. Arrangements are being made for parking, signage and snow removal. We will not be holding Christmas Day worship this year.

What you can do: This is a significant challenge for our congregation, but we have faith that we will find strength as a faith community and work through these issues. You can help us by continuing to attend worship so we can gather as a community. It is also safe to say that offerings, contributions and stewardship pledges are more important than ever. Please remember to keep up your contributions to the church. Finally, please pray as we work to make everyone involved as safe as possible, communicate changes and continue the work of our church.

Church leadership commits to timely, transparent, and accurate communication of information throughout this process. Please direct your questions to:

  • Pastor Chad Huebner – (563) 382-2638, pastorchad@firstlutherandecorah.org
  • Council President Erika Randall – (952) 412-5255, rander01@luther.edu
  • Council Vice President Karen Trewin – (563) 419-4796, kttrewin@gmail.com

As we wait during this Advent season for the coming of our Lord and Savior, may our hearts be filled with faith in our future, hope for our continued progress, joy at his coming and love for each other.

Sincerely,
Pastor Chad, Pastor Melissa, and the FLC Church Council