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Len Surniak created “A Sanctuary of Prayer and Praise” for the Trinity United Methodist Church of Southport, NC after Hurricane Florence.  The inspiration for this piece began as an evacuation prayer, asking God to give Gary and Donna Albertson a vision for something that would bless their Trinity family and those who live and visit their community in their beloved City of Southport.

A Side Trip to St. Augustine

Walking through the streets of St. Augustine and randomly going in and out of shops, they went by this particular shop and noticed a decal of two sparrows on the storefront.  They didn’t go in the first time (you see Donna tries to be sensitive to Gary and not drag him in to every shop)!  As they were about to pass the shop for the second time, Gary said “Don’t you want to go in here?”  So, of course they did.

This was a lovely ladies boutique offering clothing, jewelry, home decor, etc.  As you enter the small lobby there was signage with words of meaning.  Once inside there was a display with tree branches on top of a table.  There were birds on and around the tree along with other items.  As they continued browsing, Donna turned to Gary and said to him, “there is a beautiful spirit in this store.”  He cocked his head and lifted his eyebrow as if he were saying “oh”?

That’s when Donna turned to the center of the store, but was not prepared to see something as unexpected as a wall with the words “PRAYER AND PRAISE”.  As they moved closer, they could see multiple tags hanging on pegs with written prayers and praises on them.  It brought tears to their eyes!  They began reading the tags and offering their prayers on their behalf; it was very moving.  They wanted to say, it was a sacred place!  God caused His people to pray.  The very first tag their eyes fell on was this prayer… “Prayers for all those in the wake of Hurricane Florence”.  God had put their concerns on a total stranger’s heart to pray.  They knew that God had brought them to this place at this time for … “Such a time as this”!

There were hundreds of tags and many more in a suitcase set under a table in front of this wall.  The table held blank tags, pens, a devotional, tissues and a quest book.  As they continued to stand there, taking it all in, they realized a plaque that invited you to not only write a prayer or praise but take one with you to be included in your personal prayers.

Meeting up with Debby and Len Surniak during the Evacuation

They were so excited about this find that when they met up with Len and Debby Surniak in Florida a few days later, the four of them would stop in St. Augustine again so they could see for themselves what Gary and Donna were so excited about.  The four of them agreed that this inspirational Prayer and Praise concept was destined to be incorporated into Trinity’s sanctuary.

Once they were allowed to return to Southport after the storm, the four of them began to discuss how they could incorporate a sanctuary of prayer and praise at Trinity.  They found the optimal location for the Trinity Sanctuary of Prayer and Praise to be the east annex where the choir enters the sanctuary.  They found that the old front doors to the Trinity sanctuary were being replaced and claimed and repurposed them as the backdrop for their project.  Len Surniak designed a cornice to adorn these repurposed doors that included a stained glass panel closely resembling other stained glass panels in the sanctuary.  Len began the construction of the stained glass panel in March of 2019.  After the glass panel was finished, the cornice construction and finishing began by the team, Len Surniak, Ed Bowers and Debby Surniak and was completed in June of 2019.  The project was dedicated on June 30, 2019.

Special Thanks

Special thanks to all those who offered their talents and gifts to help this project come to fruition:  Len Surniak, Ed Bowers and Debby Surniak for their design, construction and finishing skills; the moving crew of Ken Perry, Don Collins and his son-in-law JP, Mike Corley, and Ron Smith; Diane Slone, James Wright and Donna Albertson for their artistic contributions; Gary Albertson for Spiritual support; Gene Hornick and his assistant Guy Edwards for bringing light and ambiance to this project; the Trustees for their support and the financial contributions from many Trinity family members.

Our Combined Prayerful Vision

It is our sincere prayer that this will draw church members and those who visit our church sanctuary to be an extension of Trinity’s ministry, to offer another opportunity to be still, to be drawn to the savior, to offer prayers of need and praise, to encourage prayers for others, and to worship!