Parishioners from St. Francis by the Lake Episcopal Church turned out last Sunday to break ground for a major undertaking that will affect not just their congregation, but the entire Canyon Lake community.
That project is an 8,142-square-foot, million-dollar parish hall and ministry and outreach center that will include meeting areas, classrooms, offices, a kitchen, restrooms with showers, and a covered patio that will provide sweeping views of the area between FM 306 and Canyon Dam known as Hidden Valley.
“The visionaries who established St. Francis by the Lake a long time ago set all of this ground apart from common use for the glory of God,” said parish pastor Fr. David Chalk during his invocation at the groundbreaking ceremony. “Since faithful people desire to build a center for mission, ministry, and outreach … we therefore break ground for this building, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
During the ceremony, parishioners stood at each spot where the corners of the new building will be located in order to demonstrate just how large it will be. It will be a one-story steel structure, with a partial rock facade, which will be painted dark green to complement the church itself and will have a main room that will be able to accommodate 160 people and have a total occupancy of 280.
“It’s going to be a big building,” said project chair Maury Meyer, “and we’re hoping it’s going to be a place the whole community can use.”
St. Francis’s current parish hall is the top level of a barracks from Lackland Air Force Base that is about 1,900 square feet but nearly 100 years old and not in very good shape. Parishioners have been figuring out how to replace it for several years and in 2012 attempted to move ahead with a new facility, but it was beyond what they were able to accomplish.
“But the termites have won and we don’t have enough duct tape to keep it together,” Meyer said of the old military structure, noting that the new center will help the congregation better accomplish its many goals.
“We have more than 40 ministries at our church,” said Meyer of the need for the new facility. “It will have a more functional kitchen, so we can go back to doing vacation Bible school, and we’d like it to be a center where youth from across our diocese come and spend the weekend and use the river. We just have gazillion things going on and we’re always looking to do more and to help our community more.”
She said the new center would also allow the church to host a family for a week at a time as part of the Family Promise program for helping homeless families get back on their feet.
“It will be a place where we can grow and be strengthened to go out into the world and help however it is that we’re needed in the community,” said parishioner Libby Templeton. “It will provide much more of a space for us to be able to do that and to provide shelter for people if we had a disaster like a flood.”
It is a labor for love for the 110 families of St. Francis parishioners, who have pledged the funds for the project on top of their normal gifts to the church, half through a capital campaign that began in 2016 and the balance in one that will begin in 2019.
“It’s been a very generous outpouring of love, devotion, and faith,” Meyer said, adding that the facility will be constructed by Wunderlich Builders of Seguin and expected to be completed within 150 days of the groundbreaking, subject to delays from weather. “So, maybe by Easter!”
St. Francis by the Lake Episcopal Church is located at 13250 FM 306, at the intersection with Spring Mountain Drive, and was founded by local residents in 1980 on seven acres of land they were given. For more information about its services and ministries, go to SaintFrancisByTheLake.org or call (830) 964-3820.