A groundbreaking ceremony Monday of last week heralded the start of construction on a new church building for Grace Presbyterian Evangelical Community Church in Weed, almost one year after the old building was destroyed in the Boles Fire.

Members of the church community along with professionals working on the new building and some special invited guests met on the newly levelled lot at 1090 North Davis Avenue to hear some church history, remember the time after the fire, and aim their shovels into ground where the new church walls will soon rise.

“The day after the fire, we walked up here… it was probably the saddest day of my life,” church session member Gerald Watson shared with the crowd. “But more people have been attending the church since then than did before we lost the building. And we have continued to support local and global missions throughout this past year.”

He recalled that the congregation wanted to do something for Weed right after the fire. “We went through our Presbytery and reached out to other churches and raised $48,000 for people who had lost their homes and belongings in the fire.”

Watson said 127 people had each received several hundred dollars in cash to help with whatever was needed.

He reminded the crowd that Grace Presbyterian has been serving the community since it first was organized as a congregation 1907. “And we will continue to serve this community,” he concluded.

New pastor Nick Welch said he and his wife Rachael were extremely glad to be living in Siskiyou County and ministering in the Weed and McCloud communities.

He reflected on the sense of unity and support that has seen the congregation through the past year and pointed to the congregants’ spiritual commitment and commitment to the Weed community as the key to what has kept the church going since the Boles Fire.

Welch thanked architects Kevin Wilcox and Ron Stevens, who collaborated throughout the design process, for working so closely with the church community. “Their patience with us through that design process was invaluable,” he said.

He also thanked project contractor Ray Pelletier of R. J. Pelletier Construction, Inc. “It’s wonderful to have someone local who cares, to whom it matters that this church goes up right.”

Weed Chamber of Commerce executive director Glenda Massey described the rebuilding of the church as a “show of strength – a new beginning for the church and the community.”

District 3 Supervisor Michael Kobseff told the crowd it was very satisfying to see “new life coming up from the tragedy. It’s very encouraging to be here today to celebrate the new building and the church’s commitment to continue to serve the community,” he said.

Toward the end of the ceremony, Watson asked Pelletier if he could have the new building completed by next Sunday.

“Absolutely,” Pelletier responded with a smile. “But it may not be water tight.”

New design

Church session member John Christ reported in an interview that the process has gone “quite smoothly” with the insurance company. “We maintained good coverage so we can replace the building and its contents,” he said.

The design of the new church building differs in several aspects from the old building, he reported.

“First, it’s been reoriented, so the entrance will be visible as you approach on North Davis, and the Fellowship Hall on the south side will have lots of windows that look out onto the mountain,” Christ said.

Automatic LED lighting throughout the building, interior sprinklers, and many code updates will be included as well.

“We’re delighted,” he said. “The architects have done a beautiful job.”