By Barbie Porter


St. John’s Church in Vergas completed a large renovation project that was years in the making.

“This project took patience, perseverance and prayer,” said Shari Fankhanel, who is the church custodian and member of the build committee.

The congregation deliberated and decided a hall on the main level was needed where events could be held, such as receptions and community gatherings. They had a space like that, but it was in the basement. Having the option of hosting events on the main level would make it easier for those with handicaps to attend as well. Pledges were made and in the fifth year of planning and fundraising the dream became a reality for the congregation of about 200 members.

In the hall is also a large kitchen, equipped with all the necessities to feed hundreds. There is even a commercial grade dishwasher and a window that opens to the hall so that dirty plates can be brought directly to the dishwasher.

Fankhanel said the building process began in 2019, but the fall was cold and fast so pouring the concrete had to wait. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed the build in 2020, but with perseverance the 48-foot by 76-foot addition took shape.

Fankhanel said when it came to planning the addition, the church stayed local, as they did when it came to purchasing construction material from Franklin Fence.

The older portion of the church also saw renovations. The staircase from the front entrance was altered which allowed for two offices to be created, one for the church secretary and the other for Pastor Jacob Wagner.

“We still have landscaping to do,” she said. 

The hall hosted its first large scale event recently when it hosted a vacation Bible study where 65 kids attended.

The St. Paul’s Church was built in 1921. Stained glass windows were eventually added, and those remnants of the past were made anew. In the new hall the windows were placed after being refurbished.  Fankhanel noted two are currently hung and when the light is right the view is breathtaking. She added the third, larger stained glass window is being refurbished and will also be hung in the hall.

Walking into the main entrance, Fankhanel pointed to two ornate light fixtures on the wall. 

“They had only three lights in the original church,” she said. “Two of those lights were put in the reception area.”

In 1989 a plane flying overhead took a picture of the church. The landscape was open and undeveloped. A drone recently went up and snapped a new photograph, showing a growing community by Long Lake. The plan is to frame and hang the two pictures side by side.

The church also compiled a history of the church, which is on display in the new hall. During the research and putting the book together, Fankhanel said the tidbit that stood out the most to her happened in 1941. She explained an entire section of plaster in the church had cracked due to a snowstorm in March. 

“I also thought it was interesting that years ago men sat on one side and women and children on the other,” she added.