Facilities: Behind the Scenes
This morning was a Sunday morning and like most other Sunday mornings, my family and I attended worship at Southwood. We pulled our car into a parking space and walked into the building. I dropped my youngest off in the “Creepers” nursery. The room looked neat and clean—the way I always expect it to look. I stopped to use the restroom. It was in perfect condition. There was toilet paper on the roll, soap in the soap dispenser and plenty of paper towels. I left the restroom and walked towards the sanctuary. All the windows in the tower were free of smudges and fingerprints, the hallway didn’t have any trash or crumbs on the floor and the carpet wasn’t covered in stains. As I looked for my seat in the sanctuary, I noticed that the blankets were folded and there were no leftover bulletins or trash lying in the pews from last Sunday. I only thought about these things this particular Sunday because I was preparing to write an article about the facilities staff at Southwood. It never really enters my mind that there are a million tiny, little details that go into keeping a church building as large as ours running smoothly.
Southwood Presbyterian has a beautiful facility. One of the most common responses I get from people when I tell them where I attend church is, “That is such a gorgeous building!” They’re right. We even have a Beautification Award out front…have you seen it? It is a gorgeous building and there are four people charged with keeping it that way.
Len Forsythe is the Director of Facilities and Grounds. It’s his job to coordinate and oversee the maintenance of the building and surrounding land. He schedules and manages housekeeping, landscaping, beautification, any construction projects, the HVAC, the burglar and fire alarm systems, the lock system, and any and all facility needs used to support ministry events as they happen at Southwood. This job is too big to handle alone. Len has three faithful, hard working facility staff that work with him to make it all possible.
Jeff Townsley does a little bit of everything. From stripping and rewaxing vinyl floors to general handyman work, he puts in full time hours at the church. Jeff also makes time for a flourishing counseling ministry. Many people have been touched by his gift of listening and encouragement. You can find him at the church at all hours, setting up chairs and tables for the upcoming events of the day or meeting with someone in need of wise counsel.
Tracy Hein mainly focuses on house-keeping and detail cleaning. She dusts and vacuums, cleans windows and mirrors, scrubs counters and vanities, and makes sure that things are in their place. You can always find Tracy with a happy smile and a willingness to help with anything you might need.
Mike Marren is part time facilities staff at SPC. A big guy with a big heart and a big smile, you can’t miss him. He’s currently working towards a Master’s degree in counseling and loves a good theological discussion. He does a little bit of everything, and does it with a cheerful heart and enthusiasm that can’t be topped —even when cleaning toilets!
Speaking of toilets… did you know that Southwood Presbyterian has 47 toilets that must be cleaned every week? I hate cleaning the two I have. I can’t imagine 47. SPC also has 50 sinks that must be cleaned, 90 trash cans that must be emptied, 14 Sunday School classrooms that must be set up and 67,000 square feet that must be scrubbed, swiffered, or vacuumed weekly in order to be ready for Sunday. This doesn’t even begin to include the weddings, funerals, graduations, church-wide dinners, concerts, and conferences that take place at Southwood. Each of these events require set-up and tear-down. It’s a daunting task when you start looking at the numbers and the schedule! The church building has been used by many organizations in the community and is even a polling precinct on election days. Huntsville Youth Orchestra has their concerts in our Sanctuary and Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) uses Southwood’s building on a weekly basis to house several women’s bible studies. The facilities staff just sees it as part of their ministry. Len Forsythe says, “Caring for God’s church building and being able to share it with the community is just one way of showing people Christ.” Knowing that the work they’re doing is “Kingdom work” gives even the simplest tasks new meaning.
As I set out to learn what was really involved in caring for Southwood’s physical grounds, I gained a deeper appreciation for the facilities staff and all they do for the body of Christ. I’ve also realized that though it is their job to care for the church building, it is a responsibility we share as members. We all need to love this facility well and appreciate the beauty in it by taking care of it. After all, as Len says, “We’re always preparing the building for guests that are coming to our home.”