By Fred Koenig
It’s impossible to say exactly what the founding members of Avondale UMC each thought the future would hold for the church in the next century. But it’s pretty safe to say they didn’t envision the church would be generating its own electricity from solar panels installed on its roof. But the addition of solar panels is just one of the ways that Avondale UMC is living like its first 100 years was just its first step in ministry.
The solar panels cost about $90,000, but a grant from Kansas City Power and Light takes the expenses down to $40,000.
“Fortunately we have a very large high roof that faces southwest, which makes our building a great facility for placing solar modules,” said Mark Whitaker. “We also have a forward-thinking congregation that recognizes the benefits of making the investment in our future.”
As the church pays respect to its heritage in its 100th year, it is also making sure it’s celebrations are active ones, that look to the future. In March the church made its first 100 goal: 100 people for 100 smiles celebrating 100 years of the church as it marched Saturday in the North Kansas City Snake Saturday Parade Saint Patrick’s Day weekend. That number was made up of the church attendees and representatives of the various scouting groups that the church sponsors and supports.
While walking they sang When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, When You’re Smiling, Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam, Oh How I Love Jesus and His Name is Wonderful. It’s hard to keep 100 people together in a parade, when some are on a float but most are walking, but they kept it going.
“People watching the parade could sometimes tell we were singing, but I'm not sure how many of them recognized what we were singing. But it was a fun time walking, waving, singing,” parade song leader Jonathon Lightfoot said. “After the review stand we turned the corner and the parade officially ended. Except people were lined up for a few more blocks, so we continued waving and greeting until the people ran out.”
On May 17 the church assembled 100 volunteers for a day of service, with teams cleaning up a local park, working at a community garden, helping at Harvesters Community Food Network, assisting with meals and crafts for people in hospice care, working on the SafeHaven domestic violence shelter, helping at the local youth center, and other church and community projects.
On July 20 the church is having an ice cream social with guest missionary speakers (and AUMC members) Rev. Kristy and Larry Schmitz from Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Finally, Oct. 26 is the big celebration of the 100th anniversary including plans to re-enact the march down the hill from their previous building.