Thursday, September 11, 2014

#TBT: The Vern Dome

This post first appeared on this blog in July of 2010. I share it today in memory of Vern and in honor of a great church staff with whom it was pure joy to work and share life. Enjoy this Throwback Thursday...

In 1996 the youth ministry of the First United Methodist Church of Kissimmee immersed itself in strategic planning. This is a process through which you develop a scenario of what your dream ministry would look like in 5 years by beginning with a preferred future, and then through a process of refinement and voting select two or three aspects of the scenario that you will work towards in the coming year. One of the things that came out of our planning was the need for a "gymnatorium" at FUMC-K. Our idea kicked off a whirlwind of discussion at the church. The staff began planning how such a facility would benefit our school, our child care center and our congregation. Church members were buzzing with anticipation. Architects were brought in to draw up plans for the building, a new vestibule (gathering area) for the Sanctuary and a walkway that would connect it all. There was a ton of excitement. There was a need. The big question, of course, was how would we pay for it...

Even before we were first discussing the idea during our strategic planning session, our dear friend and faithful bus driver Vern Watson had announced that when he won the lottery, he would buy us a gym. His only demand was that we name it after him. I wrote an article for The UMYF Enquirer in February of 1996 encouraging students and parents to come to the meeting at which we would introduce the scenario and vote on our final goals. Accompanying that article was the picture you see on the left- an artist's (you will see Miss Take got the credit, but yeah, it was me!) rendering of what we had come to call The Vern Dome. That little drawing and article stirred up huge discussion not only in the youth ministry but in the church as a whole. I ran into a church member in Albertson's one afternoon. This was a lady from a wealthy family; in fact, her family had just a few years earlier given over $600,000 to pay off the debt on the church's administration building (see Video the Bishop). She told me that she would be VERY supportive of a gym facility with a raised walking track for business men to use at lunch and for senior citizens to use anytime. I went back to work and told Rev. John Willis we needed to add a walking track! It was an exciting time.

FUMC-K never got their gymnatorium. A variety of circumstances (money, problems with the city and failure to include the raised walking track among them) prevented it from going forward, and it finally died for good after over 2 years of work with the pastoral change that brought in The Pastor Who Shall Not Be Named. The amazing facility plans that a wonderful staff (John Willis, Debbie DavisJill AugenblickAndrew Lewis, Ginny Johns and more!)  had labored on went to waste. Vern never did win the lottery, and he passed away shortly after we left Kissimmee. But if the day ever comes when FUMC-K does build a gym, I will be there standing next to Barbara, Becky, Brad, Brian, Dr. Jill and so many others. We''ll be armed with picket signs and bullhorns, demanding that the new facility be named The Vern Dome. I trust all of my faithful readers will join us on that day! 

Because of Jesus,

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