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    151-year-old Kinston church breaks ground to kick off new sanctuary – Kinston Free Press - February 20, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Brandon Davis|Kinston/Jones Free Press (kfp)

    A Kinston church held a sesquicentennial celebration on Wednesday to break ground for a new sanctuary.

    St. John Free Will Baptist Church, located at 405 E. Blount St., started in 1870, five years after the close of the Civil War, and on Wednesday, Feb. 17, church members attended the groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the much-anticipated construction on the same property.

    A historical moment, a 150-year celebration is called a sesquicentennial, church member Lendell Fields-Wayne said. Well, today, we add one additional year to it.

    More: Video: St. John FWB Church groundbreaking ceremony

    St. John Pastor William F. Hudson, Jr., who became the churchs eighth pastor in 2015, said a three-story sanctuary with a balcony was demolished last year to build the new 10,000 to 12,000 square-foot sanctuary at the exact same location. He said construction should begin in two weeks, and the new facility will connect to the current building.

    Whats great about that is were known already in this location, Hudson said. So, were just going to bring more to the community. Nobody has to find us. Were still here in one of the centers of Kinston, and were still making a difference.

    Before the church was built at the corner of Blount Street and East Street, services were held originally on the banks of the Neuse River at the end of West Gordon Street. Members then moved to a small log building, which became the church. The first pastor was Rev. Cree Lanier.

    From 1875 to 1914, the log building served as the sanctuary where members held meetings on the first and third Sunday. Rev. A. Carmon became the second pastor and served from 1879 to 1885. The church saw two new pastors, Rev. Gabel McNeil (1885-1891) and Rev. Griffin Suggs (1892-1922).

    In 1901, the General Conference of the Free Will Baptist Church General Assembly was held at St. John, and for a number of years, the church was the site of the General Conference. The church is a member of the Northwest A Division Annual Conference of the United American Free Will Baptist denomination.

    The congregation decided to build a new brick, Gothic and Romanesque inspired edifice at the Blount Street location in 1914.

    Under the leadership of the next three pastors, Rev. Emmanuel Hill (1923-1956), Rev. W.L. Jones (1956-1982), and Rev. W.J. Best, Sr. (1982-2013), there was tremendous expansion and growth, according to the church. Hudson was installed as the eighth pastor six years ago.

    The number 8 biblically represents new beginnings, and to be the eighth past here says that Im in a period where church is transitioning, Hudson said. I mean, were going to have to start doing church totally differently with COVID, so the number 8 to me is significant because it expresses new beginnings.

    And to know that this churchs rich history has been around for 150 years with only eight pastors, speaks volumes to the dedication of those that are here.

    Before St. John board members, Kinston Mayor Dontario Hardy, and Hudson broke ground with shovels, Hudson presented a plaque to chairperson James Fonville for his 60 years of faithfulness to St. John FWB Church.

    You dont really know what this means to me, Fonville said. Ive been waiting for this day since 71 when Rev. Jones brought the idea to us about a project he had."

    Fonville then grabbed a shovel with Hardy, Hudson, St. John Bishop J.E. Reddick, and chairperson Virginia Cox-Daughtery to break ground.

    The age-old dream of erecting a church at this site has become a reality, Cox-Daughterty said. After 150 years at this site, were going to build a new church.

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    151-year-old Kinston church breaks ground to kick off new sanctuary - Kinston Free Press

    Pope Francis to visit Iraqi church that was almost destroyed by ISIS – Aleteia EN - February 20, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Al-Tahira Church in Qaraqosh (Baghdeda) was almost completely destroyed during the ISIS terror regime (2014-2017). Thanks to the generous support of ACN benefactors, the church has been rebuilt over the course of the last few years and is now almost fully restored. Pope Francis has confirmed that he will visit the Marian basilica on Sunday, March 7 during his visit to the country. Fr. Ammar Yako is overseeing the reconstruction.

    What is the history of the church of Al-Tahira?

    The construction of Al-Tahira Church in Qaraqosh began in 1932. The entire population of Qaraqosh helped in the work and contributed voluntarily to its construction, which was completed in 1948, when the church was inaugurated. It was a good way for people to show their faith. We know many stories about the time of the construction of the church from our parents and grandparents. Thanks to their hard work this great church was erected.

    What did the church look like after the ISIS invasion and destruction?

    As you know, in 2014 ISIS conquered the city and we fled to Kurdistan. After three years the city was liberated and we returned. I remember very well how destroyed the church was. It was completely burnt. They destroyed all the crosses, stole what was inside the church, the images and everything else. ISIS leaders wrote their names on the columns of the church, and used the outside of the church as a training ground for new ISIS fighters.

    How did you feel when you first returned and saw so much destruction?

    When I saw the church destroyed and burnt, I first felt a great sadness. It was so sad to see the house of God empty and destroyed like that. But at the same time I felt joy and happiness to go back to the city and re-enter the church. So there was joy and sorrow at the same time.

    What does it mean to you to be responsible for the reconstruction?

    When the bishop asked me to lead the reconstruction team, it was a very happy moment for me because I remembered all those people who helped in the past to build the church, our parents and grandparents; I felt united with all those who shared their faith.

    How has the reconstruction evolved?

    The reconstruction started in 2019. The first phase of the work consisted of fixing the pillars, which took until the end of 2019. In 2020 we started the second and third phases, the reconstruction of the church inside and outside. Thank God, we have reached the final phase of the reconstruction, and we hope to finish all aspects of the reconstruction of the church soon.

    What was the reaction of the community of believers to the rebuilding of the church?

    The reconstruction of Al-Tahira church is very important for the Qaraqosh community. All the people here feel it is their home, part of their history. So it is very important to reopen the church. Of course, in Qaraqosh we started by helping people to rebuild their houses, also with the help of ACN. When we finished, many people asked us when we were going to start rebuilding the church. Thank God, we are almost finished. I feel that people are looking forward to being able to come back here and pray again and show everyone that their church is open and that we can pray to God again in this church.

    What does the Popes visit mean to you?

    It is great to be here at this moment in Qaraqosh to welcome our Pope. When it was announced that the Pope would visit Iraq and Qaraqosh, I felt very happy to be able to welcome the Holy Father here, in this church, in this city, and share our faith together. The Pope can help us to live our faith in these times, and we can show him what our life is like as Christians here in Qaraqosh, in Iraq.

    What challenges do believers face here in Iraq?

    In Iraq, Christians face many challenges. First of all, they are part of this country, which is still unstable. Of course, above all, we have to serve God to help us to continue our life in Iraq. As a community, we have many other challenges. As a minority, we do not have many possibilities to work, so we have to try hard to find employment for our people. However, the biggest problem is emigration. Many families are now far away from Qaraqosh and Iraq, and if the situation does not improve many of them may not return.

    Could you send a message to ACNs benefactors?

    I would like to thank ACN for all it has done for us since we were displaced. When we fled from all the cities to Kurdistan, ACN supported us for three years. I thank all the benefactors for their help. When we returned to Qaraqosh, they also helped us with the reconstruction of houses and churches, and many other needs. Thank you very much and God bless you. We hope that together we can show the world our Christian faith.

    Why should ACNs benefactors not forget the people of Qaraqosh?

    In the current situation we still need the help of organisations, and especially ACN, for the many needs of the churches in Qaraqosh. Please continue to help us and give our community hope that we can continue to live here in Qaraqosh.

    This article was first published by Aid to the Church in Need, and is republished here with kind permission. To learn more about ACNs mission to help the suffering Church visit ACNs US agency at http://www.churchinneed.org

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    Pope Francis to visit Iraqi church that was almost destroyed by ISIS - Aleteia EN

    Going Home: The Church of the Little Flower’s Dedication Mass – TAPinto.net - February 20, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ The Church of the Little Flower celebrated its grand opening by holding a Dedication Mass for the Church and Altar. Those in attendance included Cardinal Tobin, Father Andy Prachar, Father Matthew Dooley, Bridget Neigel, the Going Home Project Manager, the REDCOM team, members of the township, and parishioners. REDCOM was honored to work with the Church on their Going Home project!

    Attendance had to be limited to a certain capacity due to COVID-19, but the mass was able to be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube, so parishioners could enjoy the ceremony from the comfort of their own homes.

    This is REDCOMs first Church project. It included an 11,200 SF addition, and a renovation of the existing facility, bringing the Church to the size of 17,900 SF. Several of the religious decorative elements were repurposed from the original Church, including the cupola, the framed stations of the cross, and the stained-glass windows in the Narthex of the Church.

    Established in 1982, REDCOM is a multi-faceted design/build construction company headquartered in Westfield, NJ. Single-source responsibility, qualified in-house professionals, and experienced project managers have enabled REDCOM to design, receive approvals for, and construct many diversified facilities.

    See the article here:
    Going Home: The Church of the Little Flower's Dedication Mass - TAPinto.net

    1000-Year-Old Bavarian Frescoes Depict Life and Beheading of John the Baptist – Smithsonian Magazine - February 20, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    A rare series of frescoes spent centuries hidden beneath whitewash on the walls of the Cathedral of Augsburg in Bavaria, Germany, only to be rediscovered during the 20th century. Now, researchers examining the works anew have confirmed that they date to around 1000 A.D., reports Catherine Hickley for the Art Newspaper.

    The findings suggest that the murals, which depict the life and gruesome death of Catholic saint John the Baptist, date back to the original construction of the historic cathedral. As German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported in December, the artworks number among the oldest medieval wall paintings of their kind in the region.

    Modern conservators who uncovered the frescoes in the 1930s and 80s didnt realize their age or significance. But dendrochronological tests conducted during construction on the cathedrals roof in 2009 revealed that the wood in parts of the structure dated to roughly 1000just a few years after much of the church burned down in 994, Birgit Neuhuser, a spokesperson for the Bavarian State Office for Heritage Protection (BSOHP), tells the Art Newspaper.

    After a careful study of the frescoes that concluded late last year, conservators determined that the frescoes were also older than previously thought. (Early estimates had placed the artworks creation around 1065.)

    The frescoes are therefore part of the original decor of the church, says Neuhuser. We can assume that in the case of an important Episcopal church, the frescoes would have been painted soon after the construction, so soon after 1000.

    Conservators worked to carefully clean and restore the frescoes, which decorate the east and west walls of the cathedral transept. Though many patches are damaged or extremely faded, two scenes and the fragments of a third are still identifiable. These works depict scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist, a first-century preacher who lived in solitude in the desert and baptized Jesus.

    One of the better-preserved frescoes portrays Johns beheading around 30 A.D. In the scene, Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee who ordered Johns death at the request of his wife Herodias and step-daughter Salome, sits on a throne. Another mural in the Augsburg cycle depicts Johns burial, which finds his entombed body surrounded by grieving saints, per a BSOHP statement.

    Conservators think that these frescoes would have hung opposite scenes depicting Johns birth and baptism. Per the Art Newspaper, the other murals were likely destroyed to make way for a Gothic window in the 14th century.

    In the statement, Bavarian officials compared the Augsburg murals to a similar fresco cycle at the Catholic church of Saint George of Oberzell, a Unesco World Heritage Site on the island of Reichenau in southern Germany. This church was founded in 724 and boasts a series of tenth-century frescoes depicting biblical scenes.

    Outside of the Oberzell murals, the Augsburg works are the largest known early 11th-century fresco cycles found in German-speaking countries, says Mathias Pfeil, director of the BSOHP, in the statement.

    According to Google Translate, Armin Zrn, pastor of the Augsburg Cathedral, adds in the statement that the murals are proof of the great design of this spiritual place through the centuries.

    Original post:
    1000-Year-Old Bavarian Frescoes Depict Life and Beheading of John the Baptist - Smithsonian Magazine

    Old Grand Manan churches turn to new tech to protect their future – CBC.ca - February 20, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    To save themselves, three congregations on Grand Manan have turned to some advanced technology, and each other.

    In 2016, a trio of Wesleyan Churches faceddwindling attendance and increasing costs to keep their aging church buildings open.

    The solution: to merge allthree and build a new church in the middle of the island, one that's relying on a 20-tonne custom geothermal heating system to "future-proof" it for generations to come.

    Five years ago,North Head Wesleyan Church had around 30 people come throughitsdoors each Sunday. The case was the same forSeal Cove Wesleyan Church.Central Wesleyan Church in Grand Harbour had about 80 people in its congregation. Every winter, each church saw the price of maintaining its building increase;in particular, the cost of heating.

    After long discussions andbargaining over 18 months, the concept of a merger was put to a vote. It passed.

    From there, theLighthouse church was created.

    "It is no small thing to walk away from your building, your heritage, and things that you value, and to choose something new for the greater good," said Pastor Tim Guptill, who now heads theLighthouseChurch.

    For now, the Lighthouse church congregation gathers in Grand Harbour in theCentral Wesleyan church building. But as a condition of the merger, a state of the art building with cutting-edge systems is beingconstructed.

    "What everyone had to agree to in the merger is that no group got to keep their building or their pastor," said Guptill. "And all three churches had to agree to a brand-new start.

    "One of the reasons for doing that is so nobody 'wins.'No one gets to keep what they had. It's equal sacrifice, we're all going to start over."

    A key part of the decision to create a new building was to construct it in a way thatwould ensure churchgoers using it in future generations wouldn't be saddled with the same issues that threatened the three original churches.

    After months of planning and looking at several options for heating,the Lighthouse settled on installing a massive geothermal well system.

    "I don't think there's any other system like this around," said Andre Theriault, the project manager for Atlantic Heating and Cooling.

    According to Theriault,two wells were drilled between 50 and 100 metres beneath the new church. Those wells will pump water deep into the earth,where it's warmed and then recirculated to the surface. The energy extracted from those warmed waters is then used to heat and cool the church for a fraction of the cost of the baseboard heaters used in the older churches.

    "It's a system that's so efficient compared to any other conventional system that's out there," saidTheriault. "You'll probably savebetween 50 and 60 per cent compared to any other system out there."

    Guptill said the upfront cost of purchasing and installing the 20-tonne geothermal system was steep, but according to the church's calculations "in 10 years or so, the system should pay for itself."

    Guptillsaid it's a bit of a novelty on an island known for a resistanceto change. He's aware of only one other geothermal system on the island, but none as large or as advanced. This one hassix environmental zones within the building that can be independently managed.

    "I walk into the control room and looks like something from a science-fiction movie," said Guptill.

    Although the church has around 140 members now, Guptill said about 100 children use itsmid-week programs during "normal, non-COVID" times. Thatupcominggeneration led the church to make decisions such as the investment in geothermal wells.

    "We're thinking about them and trying not to saddle them with a ton of debt, trying not to saddle themwith a bunch of headaches down the road, but set everything up for long-term growth," said Guptill.

    The first service is expected to take place in the new church this summer.

    But as involvedas he's been creating this new advanced church, Guptillwon't be the pastor. As part of the original deal, he'll leave his pastor role of nearly 30 years in July and be replaced by 31-year-old John Lamos.

    Guptill will still be involved with the "church of the future" but will get to focus more on his family-run coffee shop just down the road.

    "I look forward to the future," said Guptill. "It's all sweet, no bitter."

    Read the original here:
    Old Grand Manan churches turn to new tech to protect their future - CBC.ca

    Hoped to help address displacement in the Central District, Mount Zion’s affordable senior housing project taking shape on 19th Ave – CHS Capitol Hill… - February 20, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Mount Zions affordable senior housing development hoped to help address displacement and gentrification could begin construction as soon as this summer.

    The property is on 19th Ave just north of Madison and is being developed by Mount Zion Housing Development, the housing arm of the nearby Mount Zion Baptist Church. The property is currently occupied by the Price Arms apartments on a lot shaped roughly like a triangle with one end cut off. The existing building, a two-story, four-unit apartment building that county tax records indicate was built in 1901, would be demolished. Mount Zion housing has owned the property for decades.

    The project will add to a small wave of new housing for seniors in the area and could be part of a series of new buildings related to Mount Zion as one of Seattles leading Black churches moves forward on long-held plans to develop its property holdings.

    HELP KEEP CHS 'PAY WHAT YOU CAN' FOR EVERYONE -- SUBSCRIBE TODAY! Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Jointo become a subscriber at$1/$5/$10 a monthto help CHS provide community news withNO PAYWALL. You can also sign up fora one-time annual payment.

    Plans first began taking shape in late 2019 for the senior housing project but have changed a bit as theyve gone through review. Final plans call for a six-stories above ground and one below, according to Sam Cameron of Rolluda Architects. Inside there will be 61 units, including a mix of studio and one-bedrooms, with some of the units set aside for veterans. The plan also includes space for group meetings or activities, and a roof deck. The housing is going to be rented at prices designed to be affordable to people making between 30% and 60% of the area median income.

    Initial plans had called for two ground level spaces for retail uses, but those have been nixed, Cameron said. Instead there will be a ground level community space and no commercial space along 19th Ave.

    There was limited public comment during the review process, but the few written comments surrounded parking. The building had been planned to have seven spots, which commenters considered too few. They noted many in that age group still drive, and also that they might receive visitors who would need a place to park.

    The new plans cut parking back even further, allowing for four spots to be used by service vehicles, Cameron said. City regulations do not require any parking for this project.

    The building is for seniors, defined as people ages 55 and older. The developers plan for culturally relevant and linguistically competent services to be available and to target the units to seniors who have been displaced or are at risk of being displaced because of gentrification. The design and colors are hoped to reflect the African diaspora.

    Its just behind another Mount Zion Housing project, McKinney Manor on Madison. The developer plans to use the adjacency to help link the two buildings.

    Last spring, the project went through an administrative process as Seattle has moved affordable projects out of the standard and longer design review. The administrative process is typically faster than the standard process of going before the review board, and is permitted in cases like this one which involve publicly funded developments. In this case, the project is drawing on funding from the city of Seattle Office of Housing, King County Housing, and the state Housing Trust Fund.

    Cameron said they expect to begin construction in July and complete it by December 2022.

    The 19th Ave project could be part of a small wave of new development for seniors hoping to stay or become part of the Capitol Hill and Central District communities. Community Roots Housing is developing LGBTQ-affirming affordable senior housing project The Eldridge on Broadway between Pine and Pike.

    HELP KEEP CHS 'PAY WHAT YOU CAN' FOR EVERYONE -- SUBSCRIBE TODAY! Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Jointo become a subscriber at$1/$5/$10 a monthto help CHS provide community news withNO PAYWALL. You can also sign up fora one-time annual payment.

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    Hoped to help address displacement in the Central District, Mount Zion's affordable senior housing project taking shape on 19th Ave - CHS Capitol Hill...

    Cairo yields to public pressure but gives opposition cold shoulder | | AW – The Arab Weekly - February 20, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    CAIRO Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday said opposition views should be expressed only under certain conditions that he believes are useful to directly improving citizens lives.

    This makes political reforms contingent on the calculations of the Egyptian regime, which is now ready to make concessions in favour of spontaneous popular opposition while rejecting any compromise with the political opposition in order to not appear weak.

    Sisi said that the Egyptian people have the right to express their opinions and objections, but only if they are forms of valid opposition.

    The president made the comment at the inauguration of the Integrated Medical Complex in Ismailia Governorate, east of Cairo.

    If the goal of expressing opinions or political opposition is to improve peoples conditions and lives, Sisi said, then people have the right to express their opinions and make objections. If people speak out to warn the state of a problem, he said, then this is acceptable, so long as they are well informed.

    Egypt is serious, honest, and sincere in facing its challenges, which will ease the burden on opinion and opposition, said Sisi. Say whatever you want, but please as you speak, look and listen.

    International media have increasingly criticised Cairos restrictions on freedoms following statements by the administration of US President Joe Biden on human rights, freedoms and democracy in many countries, including Egypt.

    The Egyptian government recently responded to many popular demands, agreeing to discontinue certain development projects that locals complained would have a negative impact on their lives. On the other hand, however, authorities have refused many political parties demands for reforms that would enable them to exercise their role. The Egyptian government, experts say, seems to prefer the peoples clamour over the parties peaceful moves.

    By tolerating disorganised public clamour, the government has come under increased pressure and paid a heavy price, facing opposition for every unpopular decision it makes.

    Over the years, the popular clamour has grown into a dangerous weapon that many have used to reach their goals, knowing that the government usually bows to such pressure.

    A few days ago, government sources were forced to deny news that a bridge was being constructed next to the Basilica church in the Heliopolis area east of Cairo. With its denial, the government sources tried to absorb the anger of the mob, which did not fully settle until assurances were provided to various parties that the bridge would not be constructed.

    Locals had shared posts on social media opposing the construction of the Ismailia Bridge in the Heliopolis neighbourhood, which is 2km long and passes by the Church of the Virgin Mary a heritage church established 110 years ago to the Ittihadiya Presidential Palace and the Heliopolis Sports Club.

    Church officials expressed solidarity with the locals and also opposed the project for security and spiritual reasons. They argued that the bridge would make it easier for terrorists to access the church and that the sound of traffic overhead would inconvenience the place of worship.

    The Basilica, in solidarity with the Maronite Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, sent a letter to Egypts parliament speaker, the speaker of the Senate, and the prime minister to express their opposition to the bridges construction. The Basilica also intended to address the president before the project was withdrawn.

    The project adjacent to the Basilica was not the only one that the government opted to withdraw. The authorities reportedly stopped implementing many provisions on building violations.

    After growing popular opposition, the government also promised to study the idea of withdrawing the Cairo Eye project in Obelisk Park near the Nile River at the entrance to the island of the upscale Zamalek neighbourhood in Cairo, close to the Egyptian Opera House, which replicates the London Eye.

    The Cairo Eye project, an entertaining 120-metre high rotating wheel, includes 48 cabins and allows visitors to see about 50km from Cairo. The project is owned and implemented by Hawaii, and is estimated to attract 205 million visitors per year.

    The Egyptian government appears to be practicing a new kind of democracy, through which it wants to win the peoples blessing rather than opposition parties, which face many political restrictions.

    Geographical concerns were at the heart of the controversy that accompanied the Heliopolis and Zamalek projects, and criticism was largely from citizens living in those areas. Experts say the peoples opposition is limited in scope while political parties often criticise political visions and trends, not just small service or tourism projects.

    The announced projects, the experts argue, have no political implications, and the discussions regarding them focused on considerations related to citizens perception and the direct impact on their lives.

    The government apparently responds to citizens cries because peoples actions do not include specific political goals. By responding to popular demands, authorities want to communicate that they are in touch with the pulse of the street and push back against allegations that they arrogantly deal with public affairs. The government also wants to impose its political vision, including on issues such as human rights, which it views as limited to access to food, drinking water and clothing, and does not include the issue of freedoms.

    The governments perception of the oppositions role means that dissidents are expected to conform to general policies and not voice certain disagreements. Such opposition usually includes parties or figures that are tolerated and close to the regime.

    The government refuses to allow the opposition to play an open role under the pretext that Muslim Brotherhood members could use it to infiltrate the political scene again. All these factors have encouraged the government to create a new approach that forces it to make more concessions and withdraw more development projects, especially those that could anger a large segment of the population.

    Political analyst Jamal Asaad Abdel-Malak said that the rise of popular opposition is something that many countries of the world are witnessing, and is in line with the rising concept of populism, which is the antithesis of representative democracy.

    While the influence of political parties diminished and the role of the local councils in expressing peoples views retreated, the public space opened for popular campaigns, he explained.

    Abdel-Malak told The Arab Weekly that the Egyptian publics interest in the projects of the Heliopolis Bridge and the Cairo Eye has links to the geographical scope inside the capital, which includes areas where the elite of politicians, journalists, writers and community stars reside. The elite have reported what is going on in the street to the media, then the popular opposition was able to impose itself, accompanied by public support that may be absent in many other cases.

    Observers say that the absence of community dialogue on current projects is one reason mob opposition emerged, posing a threat to development projects the government has invested heavily in.

    More:
    Cairo yields to public pressure but gives opposition cold shoulder | | AW - The Arab Weekly

    TDOT bid letting tentatively scheduled for Highway 70 construction project between Liberty and Alexandria – wjle.com - February 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    February 9, 2021By: Dwayne Page

    While one major highway construction project in DeKalb County is well underway, the Tennessee Department of Transportation is preparing to launch another one.

    Barring a delay, the State Route (SR-26/US-70/Nashville Highway (4.1-mile reconstruction project that goes from near SR-53 at Alexandria to near SR96 Liberty) is tentatively scheduled for contract letting (bids opened) sometime in the first quarter of 2021. This project was identified by TDOT as part of the IMPROVE ACT adopted by the state legislature in 2017. Original plans were to extend the construction to the Wilson County line.

    TDOTs next scheduled bid letting is March 26th but its not known yet if this project will be included.

    In last weeks bid openings (February 5), TDOT announced only one DeKalb County project. The resurfacing (microsurfacing) on State Route 56 north of East Church Street in Smithville to I-40 in Putnam County. There were five bidders and Asphalt Paving Systems, INC had the lowest bid at $830,474. TDOT has not yet awarded the bid.

    Meanwhile motorists are urged to use caution while traveling the construction zone of Highway 56 between Smithville and the Warren County line, especially in the City of Smithville where a lot of activity is taking place.

    In its weekly update on highway projects, TDOT reports that the contractor, Jones Brothers, is continuing to install concrete box culverts and drainage structures. Grade work, bridge work, paving operations, and utility work on the new roadway alignment are ongoing. Traffic is still using the existing SR-56; however, motorists are advised to use caution and watch for construction equipment adjacent to the roadway. Flaggers may be present to move equipment across roadway, unload equipment, or complete utility work.

    The contractor has started grade work inside Smithville City Limits between Dearman Street and East Bryant Street. Traffic shift in this area will remain to allow the contractor to complete work. A diversion remains in place for Williams Road to allow the contractor to construct the new alignment. The speed limit has been reduced to 45 mph in the construction zone. Motorists should use caution in this area and watch for flaggers and construction equipment.

    The project was let to contract on June 21, 2019 to Jones Brothers Contractors, LLC at a bid price of $43,691,948. The estimated completion date is May, 2022.

    State Route 56DeKalb and Warren CountiesOverviewThe planned improvements for State Route 56, from south of the Warren-DeKalb County line to East Bryant Street in Smithville, consist of realignment and reconstruction of the existing roadway for approximately 8.3 miles.

    Purpose and NeedThe existing SR 56 corridor, between the Warren-DeKalb County line and East Bryant Street, is a two- to three-lane rural arterial route. The planned improvements are designed to improve the safety and operation of the roadway by correcting route deficiencies, including sight distance, shoulder widths, and drainage issues.

    DesignDue to the size of the project, improvements to SR 56 have been divided into two smaller sections or phases. from south of the Warren-DeKalb County line to near Magness Road 3.33 miles from south of SR 288 near Magness Road to East Bryant Street 4.92 miles

    The majority of the project is on new alignment. The new road will be built adjacent to the existing road, with several sections crossing over or tying into the existing the route.

    The new roadway will consist of two to three travel lanes, depending on location, with 10-foot paved shoulders. The design will also accommodate left turn movements to access connecting streets.

    From south of the Warren County line to College Street in Smithville will be two lanes (one lane in each direction) with left turn lanes at connector roads. From College Street to the New Life Connection Center (750 S Congress Blvd) will be three lanes (one lane in each direction) with a dedicated center turn lane.

    From the New Life Connection Center to East Bryant Street will be five lanes (two lanes in each direction) with a dedicated center turn lane.

    A new signal will be installed at the East Bryant Street intersection. Other intersections along the corridor will be adjusted to safely connect with the new alignment including Arnold Road (Gene Vaughn Road), Sink Creek Road, Magness Road, SR 288 (Keltonburg Road), County House Road, Jacobs Pillar Road, South Tittsworth Road, and South College Street.

    In addition to realignment, the planned design will replace eight box culverts and construct two new bridges over Sink Creek and Pine Creek. Upon completion of the new bridges, the existing Sink Creek Bridge will be demolished, and the existing Pine Creek Bridge will be turned over to DeKalb County.Additional safety improvements include new guardrail, paint, and markers.

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    TDOT bid letting tentatively scheduled for Highway 70 construction project between Liberty and Alexandria - wjle.com

    Indonesian churches enable online learning in rural areas – The Lutheran World Federation - February 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    (LWI) - "The internet is for learning for the sake of increasing knowledge and skills, yet many have been left without access during the pandemic, said the Lutheran World National Committee in Indonesia (KNLWF) Executive Secretary Rev. Basa Hutabarat when explaining the need for the KNLWF Internet Tower Development Program.

    When stay-at-home measures were implemented due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the KNLWF wanted to increase access to the internet and began building satellite towers that receive internet connection from internet providers. The Indonesian committee installed an internet satellite tower on the properties of four Lutheran churches in remote areas to assist online learning.

    The strength of internet service in Indonesia depends on location, said Fernando Sihotang, KNLWF Coordinator for Human Rights and Advocacy.

    Internet service is provided through a base transceiver station, which is built within the tower. This means mountainous and remote areas without such towers would experience obstacles to quality, fast internet service or no service at all. It is only in the larger cities where 4G and 5G service are easily accessible, he added.

    In order to make the internet service available to the residents in these four remote villages, KNLWF will initially pay the monthly subscription for the internet access. The four churches agreed to manage the maintenance of the towers. The KNLWF will pay the cost of the internet fees until December 2021, at which time the churches will take over the internet service subscription.

    The national committee also paid for the construction of the towers. The connection will reach approximately 500 meters around the church sites, allowing up to 50 people to use the internet at the same time. This WiFi is open so that anyone can access it, including students from KNLWF congregations, " Hutabarat explained.

    The towers are located on church land, but the connection is open and everyone, from all faiths can freely access internet. She added that with the internet access, church workers can share Bible knowledge and the Word of God in a broader sense.

    KNLWF believes that with wisdom, proficiency in interaction, and utilization of technology, digital access is a blessing from God.

    LWF Regional Secretary for Asia Rev. Dr Philip Lok said, It is encouraging to see LWF member churches finding ways to ensure that certain communities are not left behind during these unprecedented times.

    LWF/A. Gray

    The LWF National Committee in Indonesia is comprised of 13 member churches.

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    Indonesian churches enable online learning in rural areas - The Lutheran World Federation

    What Is the Hagia Sophia? Learn the History of This Beautiful Building – My Modern Met - February 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    The lofty minarets of the Hagia Sophia stand over the skyline of Istanbul, Turkey. The magnificent stone basilica has been a fixture of the ancient city for 1,500 yearswith frequent additions and renovations.

    The spiritual structure has survived empires and transitioned religions. What began as an early Christian basilica eventually became a mosque, then a museum, and is now once more a mosque.

    An architectural wonder, the Hagia Sophia (meaning holy wisdom in Greek) has a fascinating history and is a favorite attraction for tourists and the faithful. The building has seen crusades, world wars, and vast political shifts, but its legacy is central to both the history of Turkey and the world.

    It is believed that a Roman pagan temple once stood where the modern building lies. Under the Roman Empire, the important ancient city on the Bosporus was known as Byzantium until the reign of Emperor Constantine I. The first Christian emperor, he moved his capitol from Rome to Byzantium in 324 CE. The city was then renamed Constantinople. This monumental shift in Roman religious policy and the geographic center of power established Constantinople as an important Christian site. The Bishop of Constantinople became second only to that of Rome in power and prestige.

    The first Christian church on the site of the Hagia Sophia is thought to have been completed by Constantine's son the Emperor Constantius II in 360 CE, although its construction may have been ordered by Constantine himself upon his establishment in the new capitol. The Roman emperors who followed continued to make additions and repairs to what was called the Great Church. Excavated remains of the ancient church as it stood in the 5th-century shows complex stonework, including vaulted ceilings and friezes depicting early Christian symbolism. The ancient church was destroyed by fire in 532 CE during the Nika Revolta politically motivated violent rampage by upset citizens who took issue with many of the advisors and policies of Emperor Justinian I.

    A mosaic depicting Mary, the Christ Child, Emperor Justinian the Great, and Emperor Constantine I. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

    Among his major legacies is the present-day Hagia Sophia. After the Nika Revolt destroyed the Great Church, Justinian almost immediately ordered construction of a new one. Under the architects Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus, a new building was swiftly constructed. The architects were mathematicians, and the church drew upon their knowledge of engineering and geometry. They created an enormous lofty stone dome supported by two flanking smaller semi-domes. The interior features three aisles and a second-floor gallery. The exterior was coated in thin slabs of white marble, while the interior is of polychrome marble in rich green, purple, and gray hues. The many columns which help support the building were imported from other buildings across the empire.

    Despite the mathematic prowess of the designers, the new building could not support the weight of its own dome during two earthquakes in the 550s. A new ribbed dome was constructed which was actually taller but better supported by pendentives (corner supports in the square space underneath). The opulent interior of the church was decorated further by Justin IIJustinian's heirwho added gold mosaics. An Imperial Door was reserved for the emperor's personal use.

    Over the almost 900 years the building remained in Byzantine hands, the successive emperors added new features to the church. Between the 10th and 12th centuries, many mosaics were added or altered. They depict figures such as the Byzantine Emperors, Constantine the Great (who received sainthood in the Eastern church), the Virgin Mary, and Christ. Other additions had pagan origins.

    Jaharis Byzantine Lectionary, an illuminated manuscript in Greek likely created for the Hagia Sophia circa 1100. (Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art [Public domain])

    After the split, the east was beset by Crusades ordered by the Roman Catholic Church. Although targeting the Muslim-occupied Holy Lands was the initial goal of the crusaders, by the fourth crusade the Catholic forces were targeting their Orthodox brethren. In 1204, the city of Constantinople was sacked, including the Hagia Sophia. The interior was desecrated; the empire would not gain control of the city back until 1261.

    Hagia Sophia as a mosque with minarets in 1718. Engraving by Dutch artist and writer Adriaan Reland. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

    Taking its name from the leader Osman I, the Ottoman Empire pushed into the Balkans and steadily gained military might. Sultan Mehmed II captured Constantinople in 1453, effectively taking the last crown jewel of the old Byzantine Empire. During this conquest, the already old building was further damaged and looted. However, its beauty seemed to have struck the Sultan, who decided to convert the church to a mosque.

    Religiously, this conversion meant a reading of the shahada (a declaration of faith) and the holding of Friday prayer at the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia in Turkish). Architecturally, the change in faiths dictated several new additions. A mihrab facing the direction of Mecca replaced the Christian altar, and a minbar (a pulpit with stairs for sermons) was also added. A minaret was also added, from which the call to prayer sounded.

    Interior of the Hagia Sophia in an 1852 engraving by Gaspare Trajano Fossati. Hagia Sophia was a mosque in the Ottoman Empire's capital. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

    Interior of the Hagia Sophia, photographed in 2010 while the building was still a museum. (Photo: Stock Photos from VVOE/Shutterstock)

    After World War I, the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist as a political entity, and the Republic of Turkey was officially recognized in 1923. Constantinople became the city of Istanbul. In 1934, under President Kemal Atatrk, the Hagia Sophia was secularized. The next year, the building was turned into a museum and the once-covered mosaics and original ancient floor were unearthed.

    Throughout most of the 20th century, frequent repairs were necessary. Falling within the designated UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Historic Areas of Istanbul, the building has been the object of frequent conservation. Now, over three million people a year visit the famous site.

    In July 2020, worshippers attend prayer outside the Hagia Sophia upon its reconversion to use as a mosque. (Photo: Stock Photos from MITREPHOTOGRAPHY/Shutterstock)

    As a space held sacred to both Orthodox Christians and Muslims, many believers have a vested interest in the use of the Hagia Sophia as a place of worship. In the past ten years, calls to reconvert the secular building back into a mosque have grown.

    In July of 2020, the museum was officially converted back into a mosque under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The move has ignited much tension and controversy. Secular and religious factions within Turkey disagree over the decision, while representatives of the Orthodox faith around the world have expressed dismay. The change was made without consulting UNESCO, although Turkish authorities say the Christian symbols inside will not be altered and the Hagia Sophia will remain open to all.

    The Hagia Sophia's return to being a place of worship is one more chapter in the long, captivating history of this sacred site; being at the center of national and geopolitical events is nothing new for this magnificent structure.

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    What Is the Hagia Sophia? Learn the History of This Beautiful Building - My Modern Met

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