In 1891, the congregation of Deer Park United Methodist Church spent about $2,000 to demolish and rebuild the church after a thunderstorm damaged it beyond repair.
In 1995, the congregation will spend about $850,000 for the new church it expects to occupy in mid-June.
Cost increases over 104 years account for most, but not all, of the difference. At 8,300 square feet, the new building will be about five times larger than the existing church and will have features no one thought about in 1891: wheelchair accessibility, air conditioning and indoor plumbing.
The existing church has an outdoor facility on the south side of the building. "As we move into the 21st century, we had to do something with the restrooms," said the pastor, the Rev. Henry D. Schwarzmann.
Members wanted a vestibule where people could gather before and after services, perhaps to have coffee and doughnuts. Others were concerned about the danger to children crossing Route 32 to go from the church to the Sunday school building.
Church historian Madeline Hiatt recognizes the advantages of a modern structure but feels an emotional tug over the building where she started attending services 71 years ago, when she was a month old.
The April 30 cornerstone-laying service for the new building "was a wonderful day," said Mrs. Hiatt. "But each time you go into the church -- I don't call it the old church, I call it the church -- you know it might be the last time, and that's sad."
Parts of the old church will be incorporated into the new one. Six hanging lights have been brought over. Eight stained-glass windows and the pews are to be transferred.
The new building adjoins an education building constructed in 1976 on a 21-acre site at Route 32 and Deer Park Road.
Mr. Schwarzmann said the education building was constructed with the idea that a new church building would eventually be added to it.
The consensus was that when the building fund reached $175,000 to $200,000, "we'd get serious and appoint a building committee," Mr. Schwarzmann said.
The congregation reached that point in 1991. The building committee surveyed the community, studied other church buildings, interviewed architects and conducted what Mr. Schwarzmann described as "meetings on top of meetings."
Church members have not decided how to use the old church. It might be used for senior citizens or youth groups. Mr. Schwarzmann would like to see a drama group use it, perhaps with church sponsorship.
Deer Park Church has 370 members. Like most mainline Protestant denominations, the church hasn't grown as fast as the community. Mr. Schwarzmann's answer is to retain traditional Methodist principles, not to change. "We've got a very important message, not just simplistic answers but a holistic approach to how our faith encounters modern problems," he said.