Saying ‘Goodbye’ to 11 Fuller

Bishop David Bard offers a blessing during the Service of Decommissioning held on November 29, 2017 at the West Michigan Conference Center in Grand Rapids. ~mic photo/Mark Doyal

Staff is now leaving the building that was a headquarters for the West Michigan Conference since 1968.

KAY DEMOSS
Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Conference

For almost 50 years the blond brick building bore the nickname, “11 Fuller.” Since the merger that created The United Methodist Church in 1968, the West Michigan Conference Center in southeast Grand Rapids knew no other home.

Thousands of volunteers, dozens of staff and nine Conference Council Directors (now Director of Connectional Ministries) from the Rev. Keith Avery to the Rev. Benton Heisler, worked within its cozy confines.

A number of those persons were present on November 29, 2017 as the building was decommissioned in preparation for relocation of operations to three sites: “Conference Center West” in downtown Grand Rapids, Conference Center North in Lansing, and the Michigan United Methodist Camp Office in St. Johns.

Memories were shared by those in attendance and through letters read by Benton Heisler. The current staff person with the longest tenure of service, Kathy Hippensteel, noted, “It’s been like my home nearly all of my adult years.” Kathy joined the staff in 1979. Other sample comments …

  •   “It’s the people and God’s Spirit who have made it special.”
  • “When I was a layperson living here in Grand Rapids, I attended Trinity and drove up Fuller a lot. I saw the Cross and Flame and wondered, ‘What goes on in there?’ Little did I know!”
  • “This neighborhood location was a reminder and witness of church to those who drove by, lived down the street and around the block.”
  • “This building is a microcosm of who we are as a church. Truth-telling and problem solving have happened here.”
  • There was a sense of community here. I met a broad diversity of people here.”
  • “The decommissioning of this building surely does not end the work that God has called and sent us to do.”

In his benediction, Bishop Bard commented, “It’s a gift of God’s grace that the people we love are built into us and maybe the places we love are built into us, too. As we take leave of this place with all of its memories, wonderful and difficult, we now carry all of that into the future with God’s grace, as well.” 

Click here to view a Facebook video of the occasion.

Relocation to new spaces is expected to be complete by December 15, 2017. There is an offer on the 11 Fuller building being considered at the present time.

Find new details—phone numbers and addresses—of conference staff by clicking here.

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