Thomas Jefferson was President when First Presbyterian Church met for the first time. Since then, the congregation has continued to worship in the original wood-framed sanctuary, but nearly everything else has changed.
The church has taken the surrounding city as its mission field and is actively pushing back physical, personal and economic decay. Bucking national declines in church participation, First Presbyterian has seen steady growth, especially among young professional families.
But the historic campus hadn’t kept up. Windows in the 200-year-old sanctuary hadn’t worked for years. Adult classes struggled to find the space they needed. The regular presence of a uniformed off-duty policeman at the intersection of three preschool entrances undermined the confidence it was intended to give.
- Use the historic campus in modern ministry
- Be better stewards of buildings and resources
- Demonstrate commitment to the City and its people
In a master plan developed over a 4-month period, a strategy emerged to co-locate only the spaces primarily used on Sunday morning. Administrative activity would be moved, in phases, to smaller buildings elsewhere on campus, freeing up space for adult education. Youth ministry took over a former bus station and sites were identified for future building components.
- Restoration of the neglected sanctuary and accommodation of a variety of worship styles
- Addition of safe and adequate space for preschoolers and children
- Provision of new “public” spaces, in cooperation with others working downtown, to house the Church’s fledgling outreach through the visual and performing arts
- The worship environment has been transformed by reconstructed windows, new lighting and controls, and updates to floors, walls and ceilings.
- A simplified slate platform and a pair of “garages” allow transitions between traditional worship, contemporary worship, weddings, and other occasions to be accomplished in moments rather than hours. The reconfiguration of tone openings and reflective surfaces support a variety of acoustical demands.
- Construction of a new Children’s Ministry Center started in 2015, is expected to be completed in early 2017. It will house space for babies through 5th-graders with safe, controlled access. Spaces designed for dance, music and visual arts instruction can be used for Sunday morning assembly as well as for community events.
A new organ console can be slipped into it’s own “garage”, allowing quick transitions between differing worship experiences.