St. Michael the Archangel breaks ground on new church
Story and photos by Emily Booker, Diocese of Knoxville
Glenmary’s St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Mission broke ground Dec. 15, 2017 for its new church/multipurpose building in Erwin, Tenn. Father Tom Charters, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel, along with members of the building committee and other parishioners attended the groundbreaking.
St. Michael the Archangel was the second Glenmary mission to break ground on a new church in 2017, along with St. Teresa of Kolkata.
St. Michael the Archangel’s current location is a ranch house where Mass is celebrated in the basement.
Glenmary founded the parish in Unicoi County in 2011. Since then, it has outgrown several spaces.
“We started with 37 [members], and we now have 300,” Father Charters said. “We’ve been working to get to this point for just over six years. We outgrew the Elks Club in about a year. Then we found where we are… and have outgrown that.
“We were very fortunate to get this spot,” Father Charters added. “The people from day one when I arrived have—the ministers, the people in the community—have been extremely helpful…. People have been telling us, ‘Look over here. Look over here.’ And we go knock on those doors or looking at those properties.”
St. Michael the Archangel purchased 12 ½ acres on N. Mohawk Drive in Erwin. The property cost $246,900 and was paid for by the Catholic Foundation of East Tennessee.
The new building will be a one-story, 5,000 sq. ft. building. Half of the space will hold the nave and sanctuary, with the rest of the space including the parish office, kitchen and classrooms.
The nave will hold up to 200 people, according to Steve Miles, the head of the building committee. The general contractor for the project is Richardson Builders.
Miles said that Ken Richardson of Richardson Builders has been very accommodating, helping the parish find the right design for its budget.
“He came up with one price. We said we couldn’t afford it, because that was the Cadillac price,” Father Charters said. “Then he came back with another price, and that was too much. I figured we wouldn’t hear from him again. He called us three days later and said, ‘I have a design for you.’ And it was just what we’re doing right now. He has really worked hard and well with us.”
Miles is optimistic about the project. The projected completion date is April 1 — Easter Sunday.
The parish has worked hard to raise the funds for the building.
“We’ve done tamale sales, garages sales. We’ve done Summer Fest, Apple Fest. We’ve written people that we knew and asked them to send money. Knights of Columbus have been helping us. We’re constantly doing fundraising. Every avenue possible,” Father Charters said.
That work has paid off, as the parish as raised more than $200,000. With help from the Diocese of Knoxville and Glenmary, St. Michael the Archangel was finally ready to break ground.
The cold temperature and snow flurries did not deter the excitement of the parishioners at the groundbreaking, who are looking forward to soon having a church of their own.
“It’s a great moment of joy,” Father Charters said. “It means everything. We have our own home.”
He said that he is looking forward to having the space to host large parish events. For example, the annual Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been held in the local YMCA for several years. But this year, the parish hopes to host it on its own property.
“We’ll be able to have the Blessed Sacrament present for the community, where before we always kept it upstairs in a side chapel. So people weren’t able to spend so much time there where the house is,” he said. “This will be our place. That’s what’s important. It’s a place for St. Michael the Archangel members.”