Funding campaign underway to restore church’s bell tower
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
The congregation at the Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church recently launched a campaign to save its landmark bell tower.
“Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church is the oldest congregation in Crawford County and traces its roots back to 1878, when the congregation formed, met in tents and later in the local schoolhouse or Opera House,” according to the church’s website.
“The Methodist Episcopal Church was the first Methodist Church in Grayling,” according to the church’s website. “The wood building was built during the winter/spring of 1882 and was dedicated in the spring of 1883.”
“The Methodist Congregation merged with the Presbyterian Congregation in 1914 in a symbolic walk by the Presbyterians to the Methodist Church located on the next block,” according to the church’s website.
“Erection of a new brick church building was begun in September 1917 with a gift of $25,000 by lumber baron, Nels Michelson as a memorial to his wife, Margarethe. The building was built on the same site, with the old building being moved to the back and used as Sunday school rooms. The new building was the first brick building in Grayling, and was dedicated on December 8, 1918,” according to the church’s website.
“The church suffered a fire on November 24, 1923, that completely destroyed the building and parsonage next door. Nels Michelson provided the money to rebuild in 1924 and it was hailed as one of the best church structures north of Bay City,” according to the church’s website.
“In May of 1977, another fire struck and damaged the sanctuary and bell tower. This renovation was rededicated October 16, 1977, only five months after the fire, but the bell tower had to be lowered due to structural damage,” according to the church’s website.
Currently, the condition of the bell tower has deteriorated on the exterior and interior. Mortar holding the bricks together is falling out, and plaster on the interior is cracking.
Earlier this month, a campaign to restore the bell tower got underway with a fundraising breakfast held on Easter Sunday. A host of fundraisers will be held throughout the year in hopes of raising $50,000 to restore the bell tower.
“It was given to the community by Nels Michelson and we want to keep the music there for the community,” said Judy Clyma, chairwoman of the bell tower restoration committee.
The ornate concrete work, which is falling apart, will be restored as part of the project.
“We could have done a patch job for less money, but that would have only lasted a few years,” Clyma said. “If we do a restoration, hopefully, it will last another 80 years.”
The open spots in the bell tower provide an inviting home for bats. Staff from Vamoose Varmints will create spots for the bats to exit the structure this summer after they have their babies. Then, the holes in the entire building will be sealed.
“When they go to hunt their bugs and things, they can get out but they won’t be able to get back in,” said Clyma, adding the bats will have plenty of areas in the community for their habitat.
Although donors can give money through the church’s website for the bell tower, church leaders opted not to enlist the help of popular fundraising sites. Those crowd funding sites take fees from the donations for their services.
“We decided to do this on our own,” Clyma said. “The money for the bell tower is not going to another organization. The money is going to the bell tower restoration – period.”
On Saturday, April 28, Neshama, a Christian band based out of Gaylord, will be performing in concert at the church for a fundraiser.
A pre-Mother’s Day Cookie Walk will be held Sunday, May 6, similar to the fundraiser held during the community’s Christmas Walk.
A car wash and hot dog sale will be held at the Grayling Family Fare on Saturday, June 16.
Another concert is slated for Saturday, June 30.
A low country boil will be held at the church on Tuesday, July 24. The dinner involves taking corn on the cob, potatoes, and sausage and heating them up. The dinners can include shrimp or can be prepared without shrimp.
“You boil them all together, so all the flavors mix together, and then you lift them out and spread them out,” Clyma said.
Carey Jansen, who relocated to Grayling from Texas with her husband, Kevin, and family, is heading up the dinner.
“It’s loads of fun and it’s a new thing for up north,” Clyma said. “We’re trying to not do things that people do over and over again. We’re trying to do things that are new and make people want to come.”
An improv session, led by Chad Patterson, the creative director for The Acting Up Theatre Company, will be held at the Grayling Eagles Club on Friday, Aug. 10, along with a talent auction. Items such as handmade quilts will be auctioned off. Pastor Rich Burstall will auction off a sermon on any subject which the winning bidder chooses. And church members will prepare meals for winners and their guests.
“There are lots of things that we can do for people in the community and talents that people in the church have to offer,” Clyma said.
Finally, another concert is planned to be held in September.
“We’ll work as long as we have to,” Clyma said. “We’re just really determined to make this happen.”
Individuals and businesses who donate in kind labor or funds for the restoration will be recognized on a plaque, which will be placed inside the bell tower. They will also be mentioned in the church’s weekly newsletter.
T-shirts will be given to people who make $100 donations for the project.
“We’re hoping that they will wear them all over town and will give more advertising to what we’re doing,” Clyma said.
Jack Millikin, Inc. is scheduled to replace the stairs leading into the side entrance of the church this summer. The project to restore the bell tower will be completed in the summer of 2019, if all of the funds have been raised.
A feast will cap the campaign.
“We’re going to have a great big community dinner after we finish the project, and everybody that has given will be invited,” Clyma said. “That’s what we’re all about is being a community church.”
The website for the church is michelsonmemorialumc.org.