Published Sept. 8, 2018
"This is going to make a big, big difference"
Wesley Foundation dedicates its new Stillwater home
STILLWATER (Sept. 8, 2018) – Lucian Cretiu bore a look of astonishment Saturday afternoon as he finished touring the new Wesley Foundation Ministry Center at Oklahoma State University. He marveled at its coffee shop fixtures, furnishings, and the wide spaces its areas provided for guests to mix and mingle.
"It's an amazing place for everybody, black or white, Asian or European, Democratic or Republican," said the former Romanian immigrant, who learned to speak English at the foundation when his family moved to Stillwater just over a decade ago. "I hope it brings a lot of students here, from all over the world."
Many foundation and university executives echoed Cretiu during Saturday's open house and dedication ceremony for the 31,000-square-foot center.
"This is going to really ramp this ministry up," OSU President Burns Hargis told the capacity crowd in the facility's worship center. "It's going to make a big, big difference."
Designed by Sparks Reed Architecture and Interiors, the three-story brick and steel center more than doubles the space of the foundation's previous home. In addition to its second-floor worship venue, the complex provides new study sites, community areas, and a coffee shop for everyone at the Stillwater campus.
"The creativity and the possibilities are just endless," said Wesley Foundation Director of Operations Anne Walker. "There's just so much opportunity here. There's also an incredible responsibility. I think James and I both really take very seriously the investment that people have made in the foundation."
This new center also offers living quarters for up to 12 students. Working its way to capacity, the foundation welcomed five residents this first semester, with more expected in the spring.
"By January, I think we'll have a full slate signed up for the fall," said Rev. James Hunt, campus director and minister.
Joe D. Hall General Contractors completed principal construction on Aug. 1. Following installation of the furniture and other touches, the Wesley Foundation welcomed its first students by mid-month. Their first worship experience came Aug. 22.
"From beginning to end, it was the smoothest project I've ever been involved with," said project manager Gregg Bradshaw, who had worked on 299 other construction tasks before overseeing this effort.
The foundation, active at OSU since 1909, needed this building to replace the worn structure Cretiu knew, which had opened in 1957. With more than twice that former building's available space, Hunt expects their new home to significantly boost the foundation's campus presence.
"The coffee shop allows us to demonstrate that this place is open to everybody," he said. "I think a lot of students will feel welcome in this coffee shop that might not have felt comfortable in the old setting."
Its 823 W. University Ave. footprint and dynamic design should also make a new Stillwater icon of the Wesley Foundation home.
"Are you not blown away by what this building looks like?" said Bishop Jimmy Nunn, episcopal leader for the Oklahoma Area of The United Methodist Church. "It is just phenomenal."
With the dedication services complete, Hunt said the first floor would add ping-pong, pool, and other student-friendly entertainment stations, all easily accessed by an open interior design taking advantage of its prime campus location.
The second floor provides a worship space for up to 295 people. Two meeting rooms overlook that area, which leads to a patio facing the Edmon Low Library lawn.
"I'm just really impressed with all the thought that went into the design of the worship space," said Hunt. "It feels modern, but it doesn't feel sterile. It feels like a worship space without feeling stuffy. I think it's all done very well."
The third floor provides the foundation's secured bedrooms, shared kitchenettes, a large kitchen common area, and a public meeting space.
"It's really impressive," OSU sophomore Shane Green said of the building's layout. The last of the five residents to move in, he praised the building's comfortable feel.
"Everything is just so modern," he said. "Pretty much everywhere I looked, the first word that came to mind was ‘cool' or ‘wow.'"
Nunn expressed faith this building will help the foundation extend its ministry and mission. He expounded on scripture read at the dedication ceremony by Walker, Ephesians 2:19-22, which talks about how believers in Christ are not foreigners or strangers, but members of his church and household. This, said Nunn, mirrors the foundation's mission.
"This is a place where people can belong," said Nunn. "We may come as strangers. We may come without an identity. But we will gain an identity. We will belong."
As a former student resident of the Wesley Foundation's earlier building, Saturday's open house and dedication held special significance for Gary Sparks, a co-founder of Sparks Reed and architect of the foundation's new home. What pleased him most were the ministry enhancements this building made possible.
"The staff that's running and programming this will now have the tools available to help people know more about Christ all around this campus," Sparks said. "They haven't had the facility to be able to do that until now."
Hall echoed that.
"Christianity is essentially a social religion," Hall told Saturday's audience. "To turn it into a solitary religion is to destroy it."
Nunn thanked those present who had helped fund this construction.
"Many, many lives will be impacted," he said. "Thank you for your generosity and caring about this ministry."