Saint John's United Methodist Church in Georgetown traces roots to 1800s Swedish settlers

The interior's new colors pay tribute to the church's Swedish heritage. (Sally Grace Holtgrieve/Community Impact Newspaper)
The interior's new colors pay tribute to the church's Swedish heritage. (Sally Grace Holtgrieve/Community Impact Newspaper)

The interior's new colors pay tribute to the church's Swedish heritage. (Sally Grace Holtgrieve/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Saint John's has been offering virtual, drive in and outdoor services during the pandemic. (Sally Grace Holtgrieve/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Renovations had to be done carefully around the stained glass. (Sally Grace Holtgrieve/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Renovations had to be done carefully around the stained glass. (Sally Grace Holtgrieve/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Reverend Darren Walker records a video sermon inside the recently renovated chapel. (Sally Grace Holtgrieve/Community Impact Newspaper)
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After two years of extensive renovations, Saint John’s United Methodist Church is sturdy, sparkling and ready to welcome its congregation back when it is safe to do so regarding COVID-19 restrictions.

Restoration work began due to cracks in the over-100-year-old plaster, Trustee Charlie Cherry said. Then drainage issues were discovered, and as those were investigated, more needed improvements surfaced.

“An engineer who crawled under the building said it was one of the most intricate pieces of woodworking he’d ever seen, as it was done in an old style,” Cherry said.

It was discovered the structure was sinking several inches every few months, Cherry said, so support beams were added underneath. After that, the trustees spent about five months interviewing people to come do the indoor restoration. Because the walls are made of plaster, it takes a certain expertise to repair them.

In addition, the original stained glass windows had to remain in place throughout the work. They cannot be removed, and if damaged, cannot be replaced because the colors, detail and style is a lost art, Trustee Mary Lou Wells said.

The walls, formerly a grey/brown with white ceiling, were updated with Swedish colors: blue and yellow. A chandelier reclaimed from the old, original church site several miles away hangs from the ceiling. It used to be gas powered and was converted to electric.

Cherry and some others also built a new wooden cross that hangs at the front. Subtle light emanating from behind it can be changed to purple for Easter, red and green for Christmas or white for a wedding, if desired.

The irrigation, floor stabilization, foundation restructuring and other improvements were largely funded by grants from the state and city.

Cherry and Wells said that landscaping and work on the other, newer buildings continues as services are held virtually and sometimes in the parking lot or courtyard. They said they look forward to having everyone gather in the restored space in the future.

Saint John’s United Methodist Church is located at 311 E University Ave., Georgetown. 512-863-5886. www.stjohnsumc.cc

Worship time

Saint John’s United Methodist Church members have been in the Georgetown community for many years:

1871 – Swedish settles in the area begin holding Methodist worship meetings in their homes.

1882 – The first St. Johns’s church is built at the crossroads of Rabbit Hill Road and Old Round Rock Road, where a cemetery remains and continues to be cared for by members.

1906 – The present white limestone St. John’s church is built in the Gothic Revival style by Swedish carpenters.

1940 – Services are conducted in Swedish until this point.

1967-69 – The present white brick educational building is constructed.

1976 – St. John’s participates in the nation’s bi-centennial celebration by offering guided tours of the church noting the history, architecture and decoration of the structure.

2020 – St. John’s sees extensive preservation completed, fortifying the building for the future.