Little by little, Calvary SonRise is coming together.
The church at 203 Otter Ave. is converting an old office building into a church. But you don’t see construction crews going in and out daily; there is no orange fencing to keep curious passersby out (if anything, they’re invited in).
That’s because the congregation, which includes three people who are contractors, is doing all the work themselves. It’s the ultimate DIY project, church style.
“Between us, we have that ability,” said Clint Laird, who came to Wisconsin from California in 2010 to start the church and is also one of the contractors.
Calvary SonRise started as a bible study in November 2010. Then, after purchasing the old Fluor Bros. Construction Co. office in August 2014, the group of about 15 people moved into one room of the building in February 2015. Construction took up the rest of the building — it was cramped, but fun, Laird said.
Laird has also established two other churches. One in Honduras in 2005, and another in Russia in 2002, where he met his wife, Sarah. Her family is from Wisconsin, and after many prayers the couple decided to move their family home.
Work has continued to complete the sanctuary, a nearly finished entryway, bathrooms and a hallway. Former offices that are now classrooms got fresh coats of paint, and yet to go is a kitchen area
While the work to convert the building doesn’t take place daily, the volunteers get together on a regular basis to work on projects — such as a couple of weeks ago when they dug outside in the back to build a handicap ramp and railing with custom scroll work, and last Saturday when volunteers installed trim throughout the building. Volunteers also have converted four overhead garage doors into windows and walls using reclaimed brick.
Other monthly work days consisted of tearing down a barn in Green Lake from the 1880s that was donated to the church, the wood from which was used to compliment the exposed brick throughout the sanctuary and entry. A walk-in safe was torn out to make space in the sanctuary — though the safe’s door still hangs as an entrance.
Basement windows now hang on walls as paintings with bible passages, and wooden storefront cabinets were repurposed as desks and tables. An old ladder hangs on one wall as a coat rack.
One of the most capturing pieces is the floor, made up of 150,000 donated pennies that were washed in a cement mixer, then carefully placed and spaced to create designs using different shades. The compass rose in the center of the entry features dimes, nickels and a 2016 silver round to mark when the church established there.
Costs have stayed low with the volunteer work, and all the material used throughout the church is reclaimed or donated, Laird said.
“We work with what the Lord provides,” he said.
It makes for an inviting, relaxed atmosphere, and the imperfections in the barn wood, terracotta blocks and reclaimed brick are like the people in the congregation. They’re unique individuals with character, he said.
The fellowship has grown to about 30 people who participate in Bible studies throughout the week and church worship on Sunday. Laird leads the congregation in teaching verse-by-verse through the Bible, and every week picks up where they left off the week prior. He hopes to offer an activity every day eventually.
The congregation is building their own church, but they’re also strengthening the bonds between members and serving God in the process. Its mission is “Teaching the Word verse by verse to equip the saints to be ambassadors of Christ,” and Laird said the dedication members have put into the church is doing just that.
“We’re hopefully enabling people to spread Christ throughout our community,” he said.
There’s still lots to do. The church this past spring purchased the house next door. They’ll knock down the fence between the two properties soon and build a playground, keeping the house as a rental property until they decide what to do with it next year.