• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

VUM Church moving to Paynes Mill Road

AN ARCHITECTURAL RENDERING provides an exterior depiction of Versailles United Methodist Church's Family Life Center. Brett Construction in Lexington will construct the Family Life Center, which should begin housing VUM church activities in early-2017. (Rendering courtesy of Johnson Early Architects)

By moving to the corner of Paynes Mill and Lexington roads, Versailles United Methodist Church wants to improve its visibility, grow its membership and remain a vibrant part of the community. "This congregation believes after 214 years that God is not finished with us. He still has great plans for us," said Tim Thompson, pastor of Versailles United Methodist Church. A groundbreaking for the church's "Family Life Center" is tentatively planned for mid-April, with construction set for completion in early 2017. The 20,500 square-foot space will house an auditorium for Sunday services and other church activities, a kitchen, offices as well as classrooms for Sunday school and its preschool Academy. "We think the community will think it's a great thing once we move out there," said Thompson. Versailles United Methodist Church has been having Sunday services in its sanctuary on Court Street in downtown Versailles since 1922. So the move to 230 Paynes Mill Road won't be easy, but Thompson said emotions won't "reach the un-churched." "In some ways we're invisible to this community because we've been here so long," said Thompson. He said it's impossible for people to not know the big white building with a steeple behind the Woodford County Courthouse is a church. But many people do not know the building houses Versailles United Methodist Church, which he said can be a challenge for growing membership. Several other factors played a role in the decision to relocate to Paynes Mill Road, according to Thompson. Versailles United Methodist Church's sanctuary is not handicapped accessible and does not have restrooms on its ground floor. Also, the church uses space in three different buildings and has a very limited number of parking spaces. "There are not many businesses - and certainly not many churches - that you'll find that have 240 people come (to its Sunday service) and have 10 parking spaces," said Thompson. Church members typically use parking lots owned by the nearby Community Trust Bank, which is closed on Sundays, and the Woodford County Library. When the public library sealed its parking lot on a Sunday last fall, Thompson said parking was a huge challenge. "We were fortunate . it was a beautiful, beautiful morning so people could park further away and walk," he said. "But if it had been a bad weather day, we would've been in jeopardy a little bit." Versailles United Methodist Church formed an ad-hoc committee in 1997 to discuss future growth needs. A long-range building committee was formed in 1999 before an agreement was reached among church members in 2000 to relocate, according to Thompson. He said efforts to proceed with constructing a new church building on 30 acres - purchased from the United Methodist Homes for Children in 2003 - was hampered by two lawsuits. With the Planning Commission's unanimous approval of its final development plan last Thursday night, March 10, Versailles United Methodist Church can now proceed with its plans to build a new church building on the corner of Paynes Mill and Lexington roads. The church's last capital project - an addition to the rear of the sanctuary - happened in 1965. Versailles United Methodist Church's board of trustees has entered into a contract with a commercial real estate agent to market the sale of the current church facilities in downtown Versailles, Thompson said.

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