Walton Award-winning North Carolina church will use grant to construct eco-friendly building

STATESVILLE, N.C. (PNS) Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, N.C., already has plans for the $50,000 Walton Award it won in April.

The Walton Award — given to five congregations this year — is an annual award for new church developments that further Presbyterian mission in their communities.

Chartered in May of 2008, Chapel in the Pines already boasts 120 members. The church will use the grant money to help construct its first building.

“We grew very quickly in our first few years,” said the Rev. Mindy Douglas Adams. “This past year has been a slow year because of the economy, people haven’t been moving in and all the developments have slowed down but that’s picking back up and so we’re excited about our future.”

Started by University Presbyterian Church and Salem Presbytery, Chapel in the Pines is in an area with a lot of growth but no other Presbyterian church.

“Significant support came from members of the University Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, located in New Hope Presbytery, so it was a ‘Team Carolina’ effort between the two presbyteries as well,” said Sam Marshall, general presbyter of Salem Presbytery.

The new congregation has already managed to make an impact in the community, revitalizing and leading an ecumenical food ministry.

“We are a group of about 120 people, but all very active and very involved in different outreach ministries, and in different ways beyond just our worship service on Sunday morning,” Adams said.

Adams says getting the food pantry ministry up and running proved to be vital when the economic situation changed and more people needed those services. Members also help out with a clothes closet and book group, which distributes books across the community.

Chapel in the Pines is also active with Habitat for Humanity, a ministry the church has been involved with since it began meeting as vespers services.

The secret to the quick growth of the congregation is all in the attitude.

“We are an open and inclusive congregation in welcoming people,” Adams said. The lay leadership “has been phenomenal and it has been what has moved us to this point in the building.”

The congregation has already gotten to work on a new church building — a timber frame construction that will be environmentally friendly.

“We’re seeking to be very connected to the land. We have 12 acres of land,” Adams said. “Our architect has done our plans with our desire to be connected to the land, keeping that in mind it is a very green building and a very green facility overall.”

In addition to the building itself, Adams said the church has plans for the parts of their land that are not to be used for the building or parking. She envisions perhaps a memorial garden and a community garden and maybe some trails that connect to those of a nearby large housing development.

Chapel in the Pines had a groundbreaking ceremony this spring and work officially got underway just before Easter.

Adams is also quick to point out that her members deserve every credit for the growth and enthusiasm of the Chapel in the Pines congregation.

(Toni Montgomery is a freelance writer in Statesville, N.C., where she is also secretary for First Presbyterian Church.)