Plans underway for new tabernacle at Koronis Ministries

September 01, 2015

By Christa Meland

Plans for a new, multi-use tabernacle at Koronis Ministries are well underway—and various groups are working to turn those plans into a reality.

A rendering that shows one possibility for
what the exterior of the new tabernacle might look like.

After almost a century of use, the tabernacle was demolished in May. The new tabernacle, which is scheduled to open its doors in 2017, will honor the cherished memories and features of the original structure while better meeting the needs of future generations. The new tabernacle, like the original one, will provide a sacred space where people of all ages can sense God’s call in their hearts and commit their lives to Christ.

The conference’s Camp and Retreat Ministries is working with the Minnesota United Methodist Foundation to raise funds for the new tabernacle. This summer, Foundation staff met with Koronis camper groups to discuss the tabernacle project and answer questions.

Next steps

Four key groups (consisting of both clergy and laity) are being formed to move the tabernacle project forward.

A steering committee will provide overall endorsement of the campaign and guide the project’s progress, timeline, and goals. Meanwhile, an advance gifts committee will help to secure significant lead gifts prior to the major fundraising period, which will begin in spring 2016. Potential major donors will be contacted this fall and winter.

Next year, members of a church outreach committee will be available to visit congregations that have a strong history with Koronis Ministries to share the vision and plan for a new tabernacle.

Last, a design committee has been working with the architect designing the new tabernacle. Part of its job is to ensure that the scope and design of the new structure align with the amount of funding that’s secured.

The new tabernacle is estimated to cost between $2 million and $4 million. The amount that will actually be spent on a new tabernacle and the new tabernacle’s exact size and specifications will be determined by the funds raised for this project.

Funding for the project will come from individual donations from friends and supporters of Koronis Ministries and by reinvesting some of the proceeds from the sale of other camp properties. Individuals will have an opportunity to make a three-year commitment to the “Continuing the Vision” fundraising effort. Pledges may be given as a one-time gift or as a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual commitment.

The new tabernacle

Since the tabernacle at Koronis Ministries was constructed in 1922, the year the camp started, thousands of people have gathered and dedicated their lives to Christ in the historic building.

But needs have changed dramatically over the past 90-plus years of the tabernacle’s existence. As building standards, technology, expectations of camp groups, and the use of the facility evolved, they created needs that the building could no longer accommodate. The historic tabernacle had no restrooms, air conditioning, ceiling fans, or heat, and it wasn’t able to be used year-round. Additionally, the structure’s poor lighting made it difficult to read hymnals at night, and its minimal technological capabilities were unable to accommodate large musical groups. Years of use had resulted in a leaking roof and a cracked foundation that cause water to puddle inside.

Last year, the conference’s Camp and Retreat Board and Board of Trustees gave approval for a new tabernacle. A new tabernacle has long been part of Koronis’ master plan for development—and camp consultant Kaleidoscope, Inc., in 2012 affirmed the plan to build a new tabernacle and cited it as a key leverage point for Koronis’ long-term vitality.

The vision for a new tabernacle is a multi-level, multi-use worship and meeting center that contains:
• a worship space that can be divided into separate meeting rooms
• a dining room and commercial kitchen
• restrooms
• air conditioning
• heat
• improved lighting
• advanced technological capabilities
• intentional outdoor gathering areas where visitors can enjoy creation
• increased accessibility (Americans with Disabilities Act compliant)

“I am excited about the new ministry opportunities and new ways of providing even better Christian hospitality that the new tabernacle will allow Koronis and the conference to extend—not only to our churches, but to the state of Minnesota, the Upper Midwest, and beyond,” said Keith Shew, director of camp and retreat ministries. “With year-round usability and added comfort, quality, and technology, the new building will allow Koronis to host groups well past the summer months and offer them higher-quality experiences.”

Eventually, Koronis Ministries’ current kitchen and dining space (located in the nearby Lakeview building) will be remodeled into much-needed smaller meeting areas.

The picture window, one of the distinguishing features of the historic tabernacle, will be reconstructed in the new building; additionally, the bell and some timbers from the historic structure were saved during the demolition and will be used in the new building.

“Our Minnesota camping ministry is one of the most effective and powerful things we offer together as Minnesota United Methodists,” said Shew. “And, like designing the new tabernacle at Koronis and raising the necessary funds to build, we do it together. This is the power of our connection at its finest! Our camps are places, set apart, for our congregations to gather for quiet reflection, rest, inspiration, and personal growth, and to connect or re-connect with Christ and creation.”

In their own words

The tabernacle is a place where many people have sensed God’s call in their hearts and lives. As hard as it was to bid the historic tabernacle farewell, many have also embraced the vision for the new tabernacle. Here are comments from two of them:

“As a child, I attended Koronis and heard my grandfather tell stories of the tabernacle’s early days. I remember connecting to God through worship as I sang alongside friends. I remember going to the altar rail with counselors or pastors who mentored me and prayed for me. I recall the presence of the Holy Spirit in faces of Spirit-filled brothers and sisters who challenged me to grow in my faith. I will miss the tabernacle. Yet, I am encouraged by our camping ministry that is boldly creating new sacred spaces that will meet the needs of our current generation. I look forward to the new sacred space where I can take my kids and grandkids and tell them the stories of God.”

—Rev. Paul Marzahn

“Fifty years ago, I was introduced to Koronis as a 15-year-old boy sensing a call to ordained ministry. I can still remember the warmth, acceptance, and love during devotions and the awe of the tabernacle worship. Returning many years later as executive director, there was a holy presence whenever I entered the tabernacle. It is a place where many have met up with God, struggled with life decisions and faith questions. It is time to build a new space where, when you sit down, your back will not stick to the back of the chair when it is too hot and you will not begin to shake because it is too cold—a place that is holy ground because God is with you and waits for you.”

—Rev. Wayne Walther

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.