Chapel Hill: Community

On Faith: Aldersgate United Methodist opens long dreamed-of sanctuary

For nearly 60 years, Aldersgate United Methodist Church has held worship services at 632 Laurel Hill Road, across from the N.C. Botanical Garden.

When the building was completed in 1957, one end was finished as a temporary sanctuary and the remaining space was designated as the fellowship hall.

Although years went by with no move toward adding a permanent sanctuary, this plucky congregation never lost sight of its dream to eventually add one.

Construction crews finished back in February after decades of waiting, and the congregation held its first worship service in the beautiful 2,200 square-foot space with pews to seat about 172 worshipers.

Some paperwork remains. Right now, the congregation may use the space with a temporary certificate of occupancy from the town of Chapel Hill.

Optimistic that all questions about stormwater runoff will be settled by late summer, Pastor Donnie Jones says a tentative date of Aug. 30 has been set for the official dedication of the sanctuary.

He has served this church, part of a two-point charge with Amity United Methodist Church at 825 N. Estes Drive, for the past 12 years.

“Aug. 30 is a fifth Sunday and a special day because it is the 60th anniversary of the church,” he said.

Not only that, on fifth Sundays, the two churches meet together for worship.

The sanctuary is the dream of charter members, many of whom are still in the church

“Attracting new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is the main reason almost $1 million was spent to bring the dream to fruition,” Jones said.

“Other reasons include the community having a sacred space for gatherings like weddings, funerals and memorial services,” he said. “The new sanctuary allows the old one to serve as a separate fellowship hall and as meeting space for outreach and mission.”

The new sanctuary features etched glass windows that allow lots of light and color into the worship space. As would be expected in a United Methodist Church, it has a divided chancel and a kneeling rail around the platform. Hanging lights and the cross used in the previous worship space were moved into the new one.

Along with the completion of new construction, the fellowship area was increased to 1,655 square feet and the kitchen was enlarged for serving larger community groups. Also, the addition of a tall steeple makes the building look more like a church than it did before..

Although Sunday attendance is only 30 to 35 and there are neither youth nor children in the congregation, these members are engaged in ministry in the community. Their service includes preparing and serving food at the Community Kitchen and at the Ronald McDonald House, as well asproviding lunch on a rotating basis for homeless people who are served by the Open Table Ministry.

The church also sponsors a pre-school program and provides space for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Annual talent show

St. Thomas More Catholic School will present its annual talent show at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Friends and Family Hall at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 940 Carmichael St.

The show offers an evening of entertainment that displays the musical, theatrical, dance and other talents of both students and alumni.

The show is free and open to the general public.

Quilt show

United Church of Chapel Hill will host a quilt show and book signing by Sherri Wood at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The author will introduce her new book “The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting and Living Courageously.”

She will sign books and have a limited number available for sale at $30, including tax.

Wood has an MFA from The Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College and a Mast of theological studies from Candler School of theology at Emory University.

Her work and quilts have shown at the N.C. Museum of Art, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, San Francisco Museum of Craft & Folk Art, Asheville Art Museum and Quilt National.

She is now a working artist in Oakland, California, and for 25 years has been making and improvising quilts as a creative life practice.

Buddhist doc

The documentary film “States of Grace” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Bryan Center Griffith Theater at Duke University. The event is co-sponsored by the Buddhist Community at Duke and the Rev. Tova Green, a priest from San Francisco Zen Center, which collaborated in and supported making it.

The film documents the profound transformation of a revered physician and her family in the wake of a life-changing accident.

For Dr. Grace Dammann, a pioneering AIDS specialist who was honored for her work by the Dalai Lama, a routine commute across the Golden Gate Bridge turned tragic when another driver crashed head-on into her car.

After seven weeks in a coma and a dozen surgeries, Grace miraculously awakened with her cognitive abilities intact, though her body was left shattered and severely disabled.

“States of Grace” follows her return home to Green Gulch Farm, the Buddhist community where she lives with her partner Nancy “Fu” Schroeder and their daughter, Sabrina.

The film offers a view of both caregiver and care receiver as they face triumphs and setbacks over a five-year period.

Tickets are $10 general admission and $5 students.

Dharma talk

Steve Waintraub, a priest at the San Francisco Zen Center, will give a Dharma Talk at the Chapel Hill Zen Center on Sunday morning.

The talk at 10:30 a.m. will follow two periods of meditation at 9 and 9:50 a.m.

He began his practice in the late 1960s at the San Francisco Zen Center, founded by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, author of “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.”

Dharma talks are open to the public. The center is located at 5322 N.C. 86.

Contact Flo Johnston at or call 910-361-4135.