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Celebrating a brighter day

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Twelve-year-old Kendall Morang couldn't contain her pride Sunday at the grand opening of West Rome Baptist Church's remodeled worship center.

"It used to be really old. Now there are a lot of things that can help us," she said, pointing out upgrades throughout the main hall of the church at 914 Shorter Ave.

From the video screens on either side of the altar where Pastor Jarrod Roberts conducted the worship service, to the larger baptistry surrounding the pool — "When I was baptized, Pastor Jarrod had to get in with me" — Kendall pronounced the newly unveiled interior redesign a success. And the doors are remotely controlled, she said, from a technology room in the balcony.

"The screens, lights and security doors are all computer-operated," her grandfather Rick Hunt explained. "The doors can be locked while the service is going on, so nobody can get to the children."

The nursery has been freshened up, the restrooms revamped and the addition of a quiet room where nursing mothers can watch the service on a screen was a highlight for Chelsea Larson.

"It's awesome," she said, smiling broadly as she held her 8-month-old son Chet Larson. "It's like a spa."

Hundreds of congregants attended the service, reveling in the brighter, airier atmosphere that came from modern lighting and a new ash-gray and blonde color scheme for the walls and flooring. Stone accents added a sense of stability and strength.

Jaclyn Morang, Kendall's mother, displayed several small wooden crosses. They're made from the base of the dark pews, which were replaced by chairs that can be rearranged depending on the scheduled activity.

"Everybody got one," she said, noting that there's now seating for 1,100 on the floor of the worship center — and more room on the upper floors.

Hunt said Sunday's celebration marked the end of Phase I of the church's four-phase remodeling plan. The congregation had $600,000 in the kitty and raised another $450,000 in five months. Now they're fundraising for Phase II.

"We'll be doing this all over the next four or five years and we hope to do it without any debt," Hunt said.

The next stage will focus on the facade, with natural stonework replacing the current red brick. A sleek modern cross is slated to crown the building instead of the white metal steeple, which Hunt said costs $20,000 to repaint.

Phase III will be a makeover of The Well, the classroom and education center next door and the final phase is a glass atrium connecting the worship center to The Well.