Chandler churches’ merger includes campus re-do - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler churches’ merger includes campus re-do

September 16th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler churches’ merger includes campus re-do

By Janelle Molony

SonRise Faith Community, a well-established church in Chandler’s Galveston neighborhood, has adopted a new name as it undergoes a major overhaul.

Now called Bethel SonRise to reflect a partnership with Bethel Chandler Church in southern Chandler, the 30-year-old church.

Residents in the area can now look forward to a re-opening of a 30-year neighborhood staple by the end of the year.

SonRise Faith’s leadership formed the partnership with Bethel Chandler last year to support the retirement of their pastoral staff and to fulfill an urgent need for building repairs and upgrades.

Due to the pandemic, SonRise’s campus remained virtually unoccupied for two years.

“There was a lot of work that needed to be done from a maintenance standpoint,” said Jenny Browne, project manager.

Steve Browning, an assistant associate pastor of SonRise Faith, is looking forward to seeing a long-awaited vision for the people and property realized through the renovation project.

He said the project is an opportunity “to maximize the impact on the community” and that “the renovation, to me, is more of a revival – one that’s been brewing all along.”

With the merger, the congregation is now led by the new building owners and executive pastors, Mike and Julie Gowans of Bethel Chandler.

The Gowans delegated the responsibility of project oversight to former IT professional and Ahwatukee resident Jenny Browne.

“This project has been a huge undertaking,” Browne said.

When the church campus reopens, it will offer weekend and mid-week services and specialized small group gatherings. The ministry staff plans to offer regular after-school events geared towards teens, onsite career planning services, and re-opening of the food pantry for those in need.

Browning said there will eventually be enough programming available to meet the needs of the whole-person.

He said that besides meeting the practical needs of the community, they plan to host general counseling services and trauma-informed “soul care” programs to address mental and emotional health issues.

More programs are slated for the future, but “we plan to start small and grow through further outreach,” said Denise Flores, executive assistant for Bethel Church.

In the short time the remodel has been underway, “we’ve had many miracles,” Browne said, adding that the first was the overwhelming support of the unified congregation.

“With two churches merging, we’re celebrating the combination of ethnically and generationally diverse groups.”

Since last November, combined church members raised over $250,000 towards the campaign for the renovation.

Galveston residents and church volunteers have also put in over 400 hours of physical labor towards the renovations, which has reduced overhead costs.

Browne said that volunteers’ contributions of time and energy comes with the expected limitations of qualified skills and general availability.

Beyond the volunteer workforce, she said recent contributions from corporations have surprised the organization.

To date, Associated Architects in Mesa donated $22,000 towards the project, and their architects and engineers committed 185 pro-bono hours to design and draft the master plan and restroom remodel.

Phoenix’s Interior Concepts Inc. donated $40,000 worth of flooring products and offered free installation. Sincerus Technology provided thousands of dollars’ worth of labor and sold project materials to Bethel “at cost.”

Paul Neerings of Gilbert’s Victory Electric offered discounted labor and oversight.

Browne said the companies that have been so generous “see the bigger picture.”

Though the official groundbreaking began in March, the campus remodel has been divided into three phases, which are anticipated to be completed before 2023.

The first phase involves an upgrade of the multi-purpose room and was completed earlier this summer.

The remodeled 1,800-square-foot space allowed for the immediate occupation of the Bricks4Kidz elementary STEM summer program.

The room will also be rentable for community events, parties, conferences and programs that need an affordable meeting space.

The remodel of the sanctuary is now underway with a target completion date of Sept. 25.

Browne said that because of the limited labor force, sometimes it feels more like “we are hoping for a Christmas miracle.” The sanctuary remodel will feature a technology upgrade that includes a sound and lighting system to make services (both live and online) more attractive to the modern audience.

A restroom upgrade comprises the third phase and will accommodate the needs of a growing church community and those of groups that rent the multipurpose room for special events and the crowds those events bring.

In addition to the church-specific uses, Bethel SonRise’s tenant, Head Start Preschool, will tackle a portion of the upgrades to the classrooms and children’s restrooms it uses during the week with the help of a recent grant.

This work is expected to be completed mid-November.

Browne still hopes to form new relationships with more general contractors and subcontractors to assist with project completion.

“We are still looking for donors and volunteers,” she said, hoping to invite more to help with this legacy project.

And congregants hope for a surge of new interest and excitement for the re-opening by inviting local families to the forthcoming kid-friendly Harvest Fest on Oct. 29.