PICKENS—One look at the outside of Holy Cross Church in Pickens lets you know big changes have taken place at this friendly Upstate parish.
Longtime members used to call it the “Pizza Hut” roof because its red tiles and flat-topped dome resembled the distinctive one found on the fast food chain.
That look is long gone, replaced by a more standard flat top with a large distinctive cross near the entrance way.
The roof is just part of a massive renovation project that started in October and ended in late March. The goal was to modernize the church, built in 1965, and make it more accessible for all visitors. Holy Cross currently serves about 204 households.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass with Father Emmanuel Efiong, administrator, and blessed the completed renovations on April 7.
“It is always a privilege to bless a renovated church building because it is a sign of the vitality of the Church,” Bishop Guglielmone said in an interview. “This is certainly true in Pickens, and I congratulate and bless the parishioners of Holy Cross for their faithfulness and openness to proclaiming the Gospel.”
Father Efiong has been at Holy Cross for six years and said the renovations are a welcome change.
“When they built the church almost 50 years ago, they did it according to the necessity of those times, but we needed to add a lot of things,” Father Efiong said. “The growth of the church is dynamic and we also needed to move with the times. The renovation is going to cut down on noise, make it easier to interact with the people, and offer more space to make it easier to celebrate Mass. It’s a very joyful occasion.”
Carter Jumper Sease of West Columbia handled the designs, and the contractor was Durham Greene of Easley.
The biggest addition is a new narthex, which allows people to gather before and after Mass.
“Before, it was rather confined and you didn’t really have a place to get together,” said parishioner John Villano. “The entire church, from the exterior to the inside, looks much more inviting. It looks more like a church. It’s an extremely dramatic change.”
Space around the altar was expanded, and the cry room, choir area, sacristy and altar servers’ dressing room were relocated to the back of the church. The confessionals were also moved toward the back to allow for more privacy.
A new elevator and handicapped-accessible restrooms on the main and lower levels also make Holy Cross more inviting to more people.
Judy Munson, a member since 2004, was one of the leaders of the renovation committee. She said discussions about the project started back in 2008, and a capital campaign started in 2012.
The entire project cost about $488,000.
“I hope that once people see the finished product, they’re going to be proud,” Munson said. “The changes remind you you’re in a holy place here. Anytime something like this happens, it reenergizes your enthusiasm for the Mass. This will help remind people they are in the presence of God himself, and hopefully reignite their faith.”
Villano started attending Holy Cross at age 10 in 1975. He remembers the days before air-conditioning, when two big fans on each side of the altar had to keep the congregation cool during sweltering summers. He is currently studying for the permanent diaconate and looks forward to experiencing Mass in the newly renovated church.
“To say this means a lot would be an understatement,” Villano said. “After growing up in the church and watching it evolve, it’s surely a welcome change. The improvements are going to make life a whole lot easier for everyone.”
Father Efiong thinks it is fitting that the renovation was completed during Lent.
“We are in a time of renewal in the Church right now so it is fitting we are celebrating the renewal of our structure,” he said. “The Church is really about the people, so as we celebrate the renewal and new face of Holy Cross, I’d also humbly request people to come to us, especially if you have been away from the Church. We now have a good and welcoming space for everyone.”