• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Construction progressing on new home for VUM Church

Versailles United Methodist Church in downtown Versailles will soon move to its new "Family Life Center" being built at the corner of Paynes Mill and Lexington roads. Senior Pastor Tim Thompson said VUM Church hopes to move its Sunday services and other ministries to its new multipurpose building in late August or early September. "The progress is going really well right now," said Thompson. "We lost some (construction) days in January due to all the rain and the really high winds." He said pretty good weather in February allowed construction crews to make up some of that lost ground and get nearly "under roof." "Once that happens, then weather doesn't hold you up any more," he said. During an interview last March, Thompson said the move to a more visible location along Lexington Road would help Versailles United Methodist Church grow its membership and remain a vibrant part of the community. The reasons for the move have not changed, but Thompson acknowledged that VUM Church members and leaders are both excited and a little bit nervous because this is "such a big change." Versailles United Methodist Church purchased the 30-acre site where its new Family Life Center is being built in 2003, but two lawsuits delayed plans to relocate there. After a ceremonial ground-breaking last April, construction workers started moving dirt in mid-August of last year, Thompson said. "Now that it's really happening and people see it coming, there's a real unity and a real excitement about this," he said. "... Our best days are yet ahead of us." The church's present land-locked location on Court Street in downtown Versailles has limited parking so church members (about 220 to 230 people on a typical Sunday) are forced to use nearby parking lots owned by Community Trust Bank, which is closed on Sunday, and the Woodford County Library. Also, Thompson pointed out that the existing sanctuary is not handicapped-accessible and does not have restrooms on its ground floor. And its church offices and other facilities are located in two adjacent buildings. On Jan. 27, the Woodford County Economic Development Authority voted to secure an option to purchase the VUM church building and two adjoining buildings at 110 North Court Street. "The Versailles United Methodist Church is an icon in downtown Versailles," said EDA Chair John Soper in a press release, "and we come to facilitate a conversation within the community of how best to use the (sanctuary) building in an effort to revitalize and stimulate economic activity in downtown." He added that the two adjoining buildings had probably outlived their usefulness and should be demolished and repurposed as parking lots or a public space. "We're very optimistic and excited about their vision for this property," said Thompson. "And we hope it all works out." Asked to explain the EDA's role in this process to repurpose the VUM Church sanctuary building, Soper said, "We'll pursue efforts - both publicly and privately - to try to put a deal together to do something productive with the building." He hoped to reach an agreement on an option to purchase the VUM properties by this week. Thompson said he anticipates giving VUM Church membership opportunities to express their thoughts and feelings about leaving their downtown Versailles sanctuary home, where Sunday services have been held since 1922.

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