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First United Methodist Church attic renovated for younger congregation

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Jan. 28, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 27, 2011 at 7:28 p.m.

Joye Tripson, left, and Becky McKenzie sit in the newly-remodeled youth ministry space, located in the attic of the First United Methodist Church on Wednesday. The women have grown up in the church and are excited that the youth of the church have an inviting place to call their own. On top of the ministry area, the renovations included a game room, a homework room and separate Bible study rooms for junior high school and senior high school students.

First United Methodist Church members Becky McKenzie, 69, and Joye Tripson, 69, have been active in their church since they were girls.

Together, they have fond memories fellowshipping as children, participating in Sunday school, Bible studies and vacation Bible school nearly 60 years ago.

"It was an exciting time; we have a lot of good memories here," Tripson said, wandering through the church's sprawling attic space where she once congregated with her childhood church chums.

As the years passed, the same attic where the ladies spent so many special times, became outdated, unused and eventually, unoccupied.

"At one point, several years ago, the attic was in serious disrepair," the church's Youth Director Eric Kingsbury, said.

Without a common area to claim, the church's youth jumped around from space to space, occupying the gym and other rooms in the church.

"We were nomads, sort of," Kingsbury said, laughing. "We'd go wherever we could."

But about four years ago, longtime church member Billie Slotnik passed away and gifted her estate to the church. With Slotnik's generous gift, Tripson and McKenzie said the church used the money to restore the old attic space for the younger congregation members.

"They desperately needed a place to go, and there really was no permanent place for them at the church," McKenzie said. "The adults just sort of kept kicking them out."

Before they could use the near-$50,000 gift, the congregation and youth got together and decided they would put in most of the work themselves.

"We had so many people helping to restore this attic," Tripson said. "The kids have put their hearts into this; it was not a gift."

"It was pretty raw before we started," McKenzie added.

Appropriately naming their space the A.T.T.I.C., an acronym for All Things Through and In Christ, youth members spent many months transforming the dusty space into three, uniquely-colored Bible study rooms, an oversized worship and music room, an education room with complimentary Wi-Fi and tutorial assistance, and a game room - complete with ping pong and pool tables, air hockey, foosball, darts and a movie theater-sized projection screen. They also coined their own identifying phrase, "There's no junk here."

"I must admit, I've always wanted a man cave, and I finally have one," Kingsbury said, smiling up at the big screen. "This will be great for Super Bowl Sunday."

But it wasn't always an easy process watching the old become new again, Tripson admits.

"There were times I stood here watching the old walls come down, and it was emotional because there were so many great memories for me here," she said, standing in the worship room where she remembered playing piano for her peers, her eyes tearing up. In fact, that same piano, an upright Story and Clark that's currently retired and gathering dust in an attic storage room, will not be thrown away, Kingsbury said.

"The piano was so old and out of tune. But we've decided to turn it into a tech desk for sound boards, computer monitors and put it back in the worship room," Kingsbury said.

"This piano was here when I was a youth at this church at least 60 years ago," Tripson said. "I used to play it all the time."

The A.T.T.I.C. officially opened last August, but it's still a work in progress.

"They haven't even finished their first year, so there's still so much that's going into the space. It's a work in progress," McKenzie said. "This is a seed, and we're just putting water on it and watching it grow."

Both McKenzie and Tripson are thrilled to see a new life breathed into the space they once enjoyed as children, and they're looking forward to future generations creating similar childhood memories in the A.T.T.I.C.

"We're hoping Eric can bring it back to how we knew it when we were going here," Tripson said. "Everybody likes that feeling of going home, and now this is their home."



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