Check out these before and after pictures of our Sanctuary!
Thanks to the generosity of many, many people we are well on our way to completing the projects in Tier One of our New Century Campaign. Last year we cleaned the balcony window. We have replaced all the yellow glass in our light fixtures. The new Clerestory windows are complete and the new floor in the Sanctuary is done. We were even able to add a Meditation Path in the back of the Sanctuary as a permanent part of the new floor. This path will help make the Sanctuary available for meditation and prayer beyond Sundays. Notice how the windows and floor work together to bring more light and warmth to our sanctuary.
The pews have been shortened and 50 new church chairs have arrived, giving us more flexible seating for a variety of activities. We’ve repaired plaster and painted. We also refinished hard wood floors in the chancel and Narthex. Many thanks to the Windows Team, the Flooring and Seating Team, and the Décor Team for helping make our Sanctuary more inviting to all.
Why a Campaign?
First Presbyterian Church of St. Louis is a multi-generational, multi-cultural, social justice–seeking church with a big heart. Our members reside in more than 19 different zip codes across the St. Louis area, but we are drawn together by common interests and values. Far from formal and austere, as our building would first have you believe, we are a vibrant, faithful congregation who thrives with love for one another and for God.
First Pres is an open, friendly faith community made up of diverse people who like to think for themselves but worship God together. As Christians we believe we are called to use our talents and resources to deepen our relationship with God, build a loving church family, work for social justice and reach out to our broader community.
A few years ago a lifelong member, Charlotte Cunningham, was killed in a car accident. Charlotte sang in our choir, was active in the Adult Sunday School Class, and rarely missed a worship service. Without exception, if Charlotte saw anyone at church she did not recognize, she walked across the room, introduced herself, and welcomed them. A few months after Charlotte passed away, her family decided to make a $100,000 gift to the church in Charlotte’s memory. The family wanted the gift to support a “special project” that would honor Charlotte’s memory in a personal way. Since Charlotte spent virtually every Wednesday in the Sanctuary for choir rehearsal and every Sunday at church for worship services, it seemed only fitting that the “special project” would be something that was in the Sanctuary.
The Session, our church’s internal governing body, knew this was time to address the ten clerestory windows that had been painted black in the 1940s and again in the 1970s in order to keep too much light from getting in. The blackened windows were not reflective of the congregation we had become over the years. Ironically, clerestory means “clear story,” which describes how a high section of wall that contains windows above eye level lets in natural light to help illuminate large interiors.
As a Session, we came and sat in the sanctuary in silence and asked ourselves, “What is this space for? What does it say about who we are? How does this space bring us closer to Christ, closer to one another? How does it live up to our long-agreed-upon statements, ‘We Invite All’ and ‘We Welcome All’?” As we meditated and prayed, it became clear that we didn’t want to simply restore the church to its “original 1928 glory” but wanted to do what we could to have our worship space reflect the warm, inviting, and welcoming congregation we are today.
We want to transform this space for the congregation that we are, and will become, as we celebrate our 200th anniversary as a church in November 2017. We want this space to speak for us and say to all who enter, “Welcome home! You are now in a space where you can find family, friends; where you can find peace, joy, love. You are now in a space where you can find communion with Christ and find rest for your soul. You are in a space where you can learn and practice true love for yourself, for others, and for the world. You are in a space where you can learn what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Welcome home!” We realize that’s a lot for a building to say, but that’s what we’re after. It truly represents who we are as a congregation.
With the generous gift from Charlotte’s family, the Session plans to replace the ten upper windows in the Sanctuary in order to let the light shine in. However, it became clear that once we replaced the windows in the sanctuary, the new light coming in would highlight both the beauty of our worship space and also the peeling paint, falling plaster, deteriorating linoleum floors, stiff seating, etc.
It became apparent that this gift from Charlotte’s family was an opportunity for the church to conduct a capital campaign, through which we could refresh and renew our space so it was accessible—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We have titled this project:
New Century Campaign: REFRESH, RENEW, REJOICE
Initially we were unsure about the goal for a capital campaign of this size. One way of thinking suggests that a larger campaign could expect to raise an amount equal to three times a church’s annual giving. A smaller campaign, like ours, could expect to raise an amount equal to one year of annual giving. For us, that would mean adding over $185,000 to the gift from Charlotte’s family.
Truthfully that seemed a bit optimistic. So in December of 2015 the Session decided to ‘test the waters’ by taking straw poll of what Session members and their families might give over a two-year campaign. We were overjoyed to learn that these ‘pre-pledges’ totaled over $64,000! Then we received more encouraging news. Before we officially launched the campaign, we received three unsolicited stock gifts, totaling more than $25,000. If you add the gift from Charlotte’s family, it means we already have pledges and gifts totaling more than $189,000!
Encouraged by this generosity, the Session set an overall goal for the New Century Campaign at $300,000. This means we will not only be able to transform our sanctuary but will also be able to address other parts of our building that support our theme, as well as provide relief for some of our deferred maintenance projects.
Everyone is invited to have a part in exploring all the possibilities before us, and together rejoice in the gift of this generous and faithful congregation God has created in our midst. Moving forward this will be an “all hands on deck” enterprise and we hope and pray that each of you will share your many gifts for the common good of Christ’s mission and God’s Kingdom.
Our Campaign Prayer
Lord, we’re grateful for the many blessings that we share at First Pres. We’re thankful for the fellowship, for the ministries, for the open and welcoming community, for the learning, and for so much more! We know You helped establish this congregation almost 200 years ago, and 89 of those years have been spent in this location. Lord, we desire to be good stewards of our church’s building. Keep our eyes fixed on You and direct our path as we make firm our foundation for the future. Give us the spirit of wisdom, generosity, and perseverance as we strive to do Your will. Amen.