By the mid-1960s, Springfield Friends Meeting was bulging at the seams. The Baby Boom was in full swing, and under the pastoral leadership of Max Rees, attendance at worship was regularly topping 200 people. Facilities for meals were inadequate, and there were nowhere near enough rest rooms. Even with the addition of the chapel in 1949, Springfield was running out of room.
At the same time, the meeting was cautious. The paint was hardly dry on the new 1927 meetinghouse when the Great Depression struck, and the meeting spent years paying off the mortgage. The scars from that debt ran deep. The projected total cost for the new building was $160,000 (about $1.2 million in 2023).
The Monthly Meeting conservatively decided that at least 50% of the total must be pledged in advance, and that at least $53,000 in cash must be actually in hand, before construction could begin. It took almost 3 years before the first $80,000 in pledges was reached in May of 1968.
Groundbreaking took place during Sunday worship on February 16, 1969. The newsletter breathlessly described the progress each month and invited meeting members to come and look at it. The roof was on by July. Furniture was delivered in October while the heating system and painting were still being completed. The first event to use the new building was the Christmas program and candlelight service in December.
The new building was modern, spacious and comfortable. Upstairs there were 8 large new classrooms, plus a pre-kindergarten room and a nursery. Downstairs were the “old nursery” (later used by the Circle of Friends), a large 40 by 64 foot Fellowship Hall, and fully equipped restaurant-style kitchen. The new fellowship hall could seat 250 people, and the kitchen could easily feed them, paving the way for hundreds of enjoyable meals in years to come.
New drinking fountains and added rest rooms were very welcome. Large windows, generous hallways 8 feet wide, and 9 foot ceilings throughout, gave the entire building a feeling of breathability. Fireproof stairwells and many doors provided multiple means of egress, and a covered entrance from the rear parking lot is a great convenience on rainy days.
Many special gifts helped to complete the furnishings. Oscar and Iris Ellington presented the meeting with a china service for 300 people.
Many of the classrooms have been named in honor of much-loved teachers over the years. The fellowship hall was re-named in honor of Max and Avis Rees in gratitude for their many years of service to Springfield.
It would be impossible to count the number of delicious meals served from the new kitchen and fellowship hall. Besides fellowship meals all year round, the building has been used for BBQ dinners, ham and egg suppers, the annual Fish Fry, Brunswick stews, youth suppers, ice cream socials and many other fundraising and social events, and of course the Thelma Jarvis Memorial Tea!
Whoever said that “the kitchen is the heart of the home” surely had Springfield Friends Meeting in mind. Although worship is central to our meeting, the kitchen and fellowship hall run a very close second.
In 2021, a special donation equipped the entire meetinghouse with WiFi, and we look forward to being able to use online resources in our classes. Another special donation of a large-screen “smart” TV, is enabling us re-purpose an unused classroom into a media center.
Times change, and Springfield changes with them, but our new Christian Education building, kitchen and fellowship hall have been a blessing to us for more than 50 years.