Renovations at a longtime church in central Fresno are brightening up an impoverished neighborhood.
Two fiberglass steeples were installed Tuesday at Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) on North Palm Avenue, across Dudley Avenue from John Muir Elementary School near Fresno's Tower District. The steeples are part of a $2 million-plus renovation project at the church.
"This will be a landmark now in the community," said pastor Max Vito.
The church is in the last stages of its renovations. Vito said the project is expected to be completed in late November or early December. He hopes to schedule a grand opening by the end of the year.
Iglesia ni Cristo, mainly a Filipino congregation of about 200 people, bought the Palm Avenue facility for $1.3 million from Church Ministries in July 2011. Before that, the facility housed Potter's Wheel Church and Palm Avenue Church of Christ for many years.
Iglesia ni Cristo congregants previously met for services at Cedar and Hamilton avenues. But that property was razed to make way for construction of the new Sequoia Middle School.
Beth Kerns, a church board member, said the renovation gives the church a common structural look with other Iglesia ni Cristo churches.
The Fresno church is affiliated with the Iglesia ni Cristo Northern California District, which has 35 churches. There also are about 40 churches in the Southern California District. Iglesia ni Cristo is a self-proclaimed global church with 104 ecclesiastical districts in the Philippines and in 90 more countries and territories.
The Fresno renovation also features new window trimmings and parking-lot fencing. Indoors, three large chandeliers were installed in the sanctuary and two smaller ones in the choir loft. There also is new marble-like flooring in the church lobby. The bathrooms have been remodeled, and new pews are scheduled to arrive this week.
Vito said renovation costs are being paid mainly by Iglesia ni Cristo's central office in Quezon City in the Philippines and the Northern California District in Sacramento. The local congregation also is paying for some costs.
"It's becoming more modernized," Vito said. "We believe this is the house of God. Since it is his house, it has to be beautiful. We have to maintain the orderliness and the cleanliness."
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