Nathan loves working the sound system and making sure everything runs smoothly on Sunday mornings. Shahiem likes “dancing and playing drums, talking about God and playing cool games” with her friends. Nicole thinks the chapel is important because it’s “where we learn to grow close to God.”
Everyone likes to show off their newly renovated home to friends. Come to the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home in Enterprise after mid-November and the youth will take you on a tour of their renovated chapel.
Residents and staff of the Children’s Home are excited about renovations underway on the chapel, a spiritual and educational beacon for thousands of youth during the past 40 years.
The $205,000 project is funded by donations.
Work began in early September and will end in mid-November on the 6,040-square-foot, single-story facility, built in the late 1970s on the Enterprise campus.
The music suite was added in the 1980s, giving children a place to practice their instruments and for additional programming.
It “was due for a facelift,” Marketing and Communications Director Mark Cobia said of the renovations.
For more than 100 years, the Children’s Home served neglected, abused and troubled children ages 6 to 17. Services include foster, residential, therapeutic and emergency shelter care along with a community childcare center and independent living assistance.
Chapel upgrades are being done in the main worship area, increasing the size of the stage so it will be more functional.
Scott Pendergrass, Children’s Home facilities director, says his perspective on the chapel renovation "is almost same for any building we are renovating. It is great anytime we get to do a major upgrade to any of our older buildings. This is when we get to make a building more energy efficient, put in new flooring, a fresh coat of paint and upgrade an HVAC system.
“But I must say the chapel “refresh” is special because it is our place of worship on campus where our chaplain and staff have the opportunity to bring Christ into a young person’s life."
Upgrades are ongoing for the light and sound systems. A music room, where the students take lessons in keyboards, drums and other instruments, is being reconfigured to add office space. Restrooms are being re-plumbed.
It’s part of a lot of exciting changes on the campus of the Children’s Home. Gym renovations also recently were completed.
Jerard likes “the spirit of everyone participating in chapel.” According to Jessica, “We have become like a family. We have a great time learning about God. I love how we all feel that we can be ourselves in church.”
Three fulltime staff members work in the chapel, including Pastor Madeline Luzinski, who has served as director of pastoral care at the Children’s Home since July 2016. She jokes that she lives in the chapel.
In weekly worship, the youth assume roles that adults would fill in a traditional church. They serve as ushers and greeters. They lead the prayers and read the liturgy. They make up most of the praise band.
“Regularly, I am in awe of the way that the worship service allows our kids to be empowered and discern and learn their gifts, talents, and abilities,” Luzinski said.
“To see them put that into practice in front of other people—to be encouraged and to use all that in the setting of worship—regularly makes me proud of them.”
Music plays a key role in the Children’s Home chapel. Luzinski enjoys seeing “the way that music, in particular, is a therapeutic use of time for the kids. It teaches them a skill. It teaches them perseverance to play, and they also use it as a form of expression.”
Since Luzinski’s arrival, a recording studio opened in the back of the chapel.
“That's been a really amazing opportunity for the kids,” she said. “Some of them have written their own songs, and it's an opportunity for them to share their stories or to write about their experiences and express them in a healthy way. That's been a real gift to have.”
Many churches work hard to balance traditional worship with some members’ yearning for worship in a contemporary environment. Luzinski said one intention of the renovations is to bring the space “up to the modern concept of worship and to make it more multi-purpose for the variety of programs that we have.”
Another goal is to make it adaptable for the future. Look for new multi-purpose LED lighting, new digital sound equipment, and new speakers when you visit. There will be more open space and more room for staff offices behind the stage.
“It's been an all-around update of the building,” she said, “and making it more functional for now and for the future.”
For a tour of the Children’s Home or to donate, contact Cobia at 386-668-4774 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Ed Scott is a freelance writer based in Venice.