A Special Year for PCA Property

It was a big building year for the PCA! All across the denomination 1985 will go into the books as a year of new property acquisitions. While no offi­cial records are kept at assembly offices, it is thought that a record number of congregations occupied new quarters during the past 12 months. While most of the congregations moving into new facilities in 1985 built “from scratch,” there were notable acquisitions from other sources. They might even be called conversions.

In Monroe, La., for instance, a for­mer Christian Science edifice became a PCA house of worship. What was once a Jewish temple and later became a non-trinitarian (“Jesus Only” Pen­tecostal) tabernacle was converted for Reformed faith and action in St. Louis. Presbyterians in Braintree, Mass., acquired a former Baptist sanctuary and covered the baptismal pool.

The totals are not yet in on 1985 spending, but 1984 set a record with $19.18 million reported for building fund disbursements. The previous high was $16.9 million in 1982.

Here are some of the projects com­pleted in 1985:

Spanish River Church of Boca Raton, Fla., moved onto a new 19.3 acre campus and occupied four new structures, but the building hasn’t stopped. More parking space is now being provided, and construction of a sanctuary is anticipated in a couple of years. A total of nearly $4 million was spent for the new facilities, including land purchase, construction, and furnishings. The congregation, which reported 771 members at the end of 1984, had outgrown its other building and sold it. P. David Nicholas is the senior pastor and was the organizing pastor when a small group began meeting in a storefront in 1967.

The new Spanish River buildings provide more than 32,000 square feet of space, including a family life center {the temporary worship center), edu­cation building, youth building, and administration office. The design allows for weekday use for the church’s day school, with 13 classrooms, and Sunday School use, with 42 class­rooms. About half of the space provided last year is in the family life center. Its main room, now being used for wor­ship services, will also serve as a gym­nasium and for a variety- of other purposes. Under the same roof are a kitchen, nursery, choir room, book­store, and four classrooms. Barretta and Associates were the architects.

Covenant Church of Easley, S.C., did not get rain on its parade the day it moved into its new structure. Leaders had decided that rain would make the parking area too difficult to negotiate on the appointed day. Communities all around had downpours, but Easley was spared, and the new building was occupied on schedule. The congregation was started in 1981 as an outreach of Greenville’s Shannon Forest Church, which assigned staff member Stephen Bostrom as organizing pastor. He and his congregation of more than 180 moved into a building of about 8,000 square feet in November. The 16 acre site cost $50,000, and the construc­tion about $350,000. The building cost was covered by a bank loan of $225,000, $25,000 loaned by Calvary Presbytery’s MNA, and cash contributions of more than $100,000.

Designing the building was the Greenville firm of Neal, Prince and Browning. In addition to the main worship space, the facility includes ten classrooms and restrooms. The wood frame and brick structure is situated to take maximum advantage of passive solar heating and is energy efficient. Clerestory windows provide the sanc­tuary with maximum natural lighting. At the center is a cross surrounded by bronze tinted glass. Seating for more than 300 is pro­vided in the sanctuary, but removal of partitions will allow nearly 450 as growth warrants.

Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Cape Coral, Fla., faced a tight city zoning practice when it was looking for land, but prayers were answered in an unusual way. The mini­mum acreage allowed for churches was three acres. No site of that size could be found at a reasonable price. Meanwhile, a real estate agent who had just become a believer was praying that the Lord would use him in his occupa­tion. A deacon from the church noted the man’s name on yard signs and called him and told him of the con­gregation’s prayers for property. The agent took on the assignment and found enough unimproved, adjacent lots in a growing and attractive area to total more than the minimum requirement. He then sent letters offering contracts to each of the indi­vidual owners, and, one by one, they were bought. Total price was about $80,000, half of the going rate for an assembled tract.

Since the initial group began wor­ship services early in 1979 it has moved to various temporary locations as it has grown. Pastor since 1980 has been Randy Thompson. Among the signifi­cant contributions to the construction was the donation of a set of plans by the late Frank Memoli, architect. Com­pleting the work, as architect of record, was Alvah Breitweiser. Con­struction was handled by Jain Associ­ates on a cost plus 10 percent basis.

The basic decision in planning was to go for as large an auditorium as possible first. Even though it is ver­satile (with interlocking wooden chairs), Thompson describes it as “a true sanctuary and not a fellowship hall being used as a sanctuary.” There is currently seating for 200 with more on order. Eventually, more than 450 could be seated in pews. The 6,300 square foot main building also has a foyer, two office/classrooms, and bathrooms. Next door is a 1,600 square foot chil­dren’s wing that can be adapted to sev­eral class situations through the use of partitions. In addition to its open space, it has bathrooms and a kitch­enette.

Construction, landscaping, and parking areas cost $420,000. Included in the financing of the overall project were loans of $20,000 from the Mis­sion to North America Committee of Southern Florida Presbytery, $30,000 from the assembly Five Million Fund, and $360,000 from a lending institu­tion in the community.

Pinewood Church at Orange Park, Fla., thinks big. It began small. The congregation is a daughter of Jackson­ville’s Westminster Church, and it started as a mission in 1981 when Rod Whited, one of Westminster’s ruling eiders, became a teaching elder. In doing so, he kept his job as a telephone company executive. He’s a “tentmaking” pastor, as is his associate, college professor Carroll Stegall. Seven fami­lies from Westminster were the nucleus. By December 1984 the church had grown to the point where it was able to buy a 45 acre site on the edge of a large growth area. Contribu­tions of $35,000 provided for this. With just over 100 members, build­ing fund contributions in 1985 were more than $70,000. To raise more, the church sold bonds at 10, 11 and 12 percent interest. The issue of $210,000 was sold within six months. An early decision was to get as much building as possible for the available money, even though some of it would be unfinished when the congregation moved in. Said Whited, “It is easier to complete the inside of the building than to construct another one.” The new structure has 11,000 square feet, with 2,750 unfinished at the time the church started using the facility in December.

In order to make the money go as far as possible the building committee chose to go the “managing contrac­tor” route, instead of a “turn key” gen­eral contractor or other alternatives. Overland Associates of Tallahassee got the job, not only to manage the sub­contractors, but also furnishing archi­tectural services and supplying bonds. The finished structure includes a sanctuary / fellowship hall that can seat 370, plus four classrooms and two offices. In the unfinished area are six classrooms and a kitchen. Building cost was $280,000.

Northwest congregation of the Atlanta area’s Perimeter Church has the distinction of occupying the first building using the “starter plan” pro­vided by Mission to North America’s building department. (See February 1985 Messenger, page 7.) The 80 by 80 foot structure provides 6,400 square feet of versatile space. The initial con­figuration provides seating for 300 in a triangle. About 150 of Perimeter’s members attend at Northwest, which is now located four miles west of Roswell in booming Cobb County. Primary pas­toral responsibilities are assigned to Terry Gyger, who is assisted by a wor­ship director and a youth director. Perimeter’s senior pastor is Randy Pope. The diamond shaped building is located on a nine acre site. Four class­rooms and two nurseries are included in the design. Cost was $450,000, part of which came from a Five Million Fund loan.

Camden Community Church is the result of careful planning by its presbytery (Central Georgia). The con­gregation in St. Mary’s, Ga., is not for­mally organized yet, but the presbytery expects it to be a thriving church as the booming town grows. Organiz­ing pastor Thomas F. Musselman was sent to the coastal town in 1982, fol­lowing up work of presbytery evangelists who located a few interested people. A couple of years before, the Navy had announced it would build its East Coast Trident submarine base there. When area residents realized what impact that would have, land prices began to skyrocket. The presby­tery bought five prime areas near the main gate to the base. The cost was $55,000, but it would be much more now.

The government is spending nearly a million dollars a day this year to build the Kings Bay base, the largest peace­time construction project in Navy his­tory. Total cost will be more than $1.7 billion. It will be a “twin” to the West Coast Trident facility started earlier at Bangor, Wash, (which also has a nearby PCA church). The population of Camden County jumped from 12,000 in 1978, when preliminary construc­tion work started, to 20,000 at the end of 1985. The recently-revised projec­tion for 1998 is 40,000. The fledgling church’s multi-pur­pose building includes 3,848 square feet. The cost was $110,000. It consists of a 210 seat worship area, five class­rooms, nursery, office, kitchen, and bathrooms. The site is adjacent to an expanding housing development and between St. Mary’s’ historic downtown section and the Navy base.

Village Seven Church in Colorado Springs opened its new $1.7 million family life center when school started in the fall. A junior high school oper­ated by the city’s two PCA congrega­tions meets in the facility on weekdays, and the 12 classrooms are used on Sundays and at other times for church education. A library, chemistry class­room and home economics laboratory are specifically designed to serve the school’s needs. In addition, there is a full size gymnasium, as well as a multi -purpose room seating 100 or more, locker and shower rooms, restrooms, and additional school and church offices. Cathedral Design of Colorado Springs was the architect for the 36,000 square foot addition. Mini­mization of maintenance was a pri­mary goal in planning.

Senior pastor at Village Seven is Bernhard Kuiper. One of the unusual features of the project was the use of volunteer labor in several of the con­struction tasks. The church had nearly 1,350 members at the end of 1984, and such large bodies seldom use their members this way. More than 4,000 hours of volunteer labor were logged in such finishing tasks as sheet rocking, texturing, painting, landscaping, and general cleanup.

Auburn Avenue Church (formerly New Life) in Monroe, La., a growing congregation, exchanged buildings with a dwindling group. It has taken over a building which housed a Christian Science congrega­tion for more than 50 years in a respected neighborhood. The PCA church’s name was changed to identify it with that neighborhood. Formerly meeting in a converted residence in another part of the city, the PCA body was approached about a swap. Active Christian Scientists in town numbered less than 25, and they didn’t need (and couldn’t maintain) their edifice seating more than 300 in the auditorium. Financial arrange­ments were worked out so that the sellers took over the residence as part payment. This relieved the Pres­byterians of the responsibility (and cost) of marketing their building.

A bank loan was negotiated for the full amount due the seller, leaving intact the building fund which the congregation had raised. This will be used for renovations, particularly par­titioning the ground level for Sunday School and providing safety features. The building totals 9,155 square feet, and replacement cost estimates range from $500,000 up to $1 million. The PCA group has some $250,000 invested in it. Pastor is Darwin Jordan.

Grace Church of Shreveport, La., was helped into a new building by some surprises that it could not have planned. The church looked for its first property in 1975 and decided on a prime location, but nothing could be purchased in that area. Instead, another site was selected which included some old houses. One of them was extensively rebuilt, but the neighborhood turned into more of an unattractive industrial environment. Within a mile of the first area picked out in 1975 was a three acre building site which belonged to a family in the church. It was offered and accepted. The other surprise was a sudden influx of new members, all of whom came from a congregation dissolved by the Presbyterian Church (USA). They not only came into the PCA congrega­tion as enthusiastic members, but they were able to bring from their dissolu­tion some of the money realized from disposition of their old property. They put it with Grace’s building fund, and the enlarged church was then able to proceed with plans for a new structure on the new site.

The new building, of steel frame construction, was designed by Robert B. Gibbs. It includes a 240 seat sanctu­ary, six classrooms, choir room, nur­sery, fellowship hall, offices, kitchen, and restrooms. A bank loan of $150,000 helped to pay for the facility. In addition, the land is valued at $100,000, and furnishings cost $25,000. Eric McQuitty is pastor.

Grace and Peace Church in St. Louis has taken a long look at the neighborhoods it has been trying to redeem and has moved into a church building that has served three other congregations there before. Originally built for Central Presbyterian (then a conservative Presbyterian US body), it went into the hands of a Jewish con­gregation when Central Church left the changing area for the suburbs in 1930. The synagogue stayed until 1965, and the next occupant was a “Jesus only” Pentecostal group which has also now gone to the suburbs. With some 30,000 square feet and 56 rooms, the landmark on busy Delmar (a major thoroughfare) is again in evangelical hands at work in the still changing area.

Positioned to continue its ministry to the poor, Grace and Peace hopes that the new location will also help it min­ister to urban professionals who are moving into the West End of St. Louis as well as to others who are attempting “gentrification” of the neighborhoods. Space is being set aside in the build­ing, for instance, for the food program which gives groceries to needy people. There is also space for the food cooper­ative which involves members and oth­ers who want to work together in their purchasing. Also housed there will be the offices of the Cornerstone Corpo­ration, started by members to help maintain good housing for those who might otherwise be dislocated. The sanctuary has been re-arranged to reflect the Grace and Peace worship patterns. New liturgical furniture was especially designed and built, and up to 600 chairs can be set up to suit the needs of the particular program sched­uled. A new grand piano was provided. A pipe organ that came with the build­ing is being rehabilitated. The building was considered a bar­gain for $315,000 even though major repairs and renovation were needed. Pastor of Grace and Peace is Egon Middelmann.

Grace Church in Braintree, Mass., was formally organized in November, having previously “converted” a Bap­tist building for its use. The congrega­tion was able to grow in what Pastor Curtis Lovelace calls the “uncommon position” of never having to be in a storefront. Initially, before Lovelace arrived, the group was meeting in a chapel of a radio ministry. Lovelace and members of the steering commit­tee saw a classified ad offering a build­ing that was built by Baptists in 1961. They found it to be a “New England Church looking” building that was well maintained. With only 22 com­mitted people, however, the group was in no position to pay the $87,500 price (in a neighborhood where houses cost much more). They asked if they could rent with an option to buy, and the answer was yes.

The trustee who held the mortgage provided generous terms and his coop­eration enabled the Presbyterians to get a bank loan for the necessary amount. Currently some office space is leased (and will be for a couple of more years) in the three level struc­ture. The deed was signed over to the PCA group last March; about eight months after Lovelace began his work there. Included in the 6,100 square feet is a sanctuary seating about 200, kitchen, storage room, bathrooms, six offices, and an undeveloped loft.

Faith Christian Fellowship inner-city Baltimore has officers and members who know what “forgiven” means. Individuals know about having their sins forgiven, but the church has even had some of its indebtedness erased. With only about 60 members, and some of them with very limited incomes, the church found out in 1982 about the availability of a sturdy stone building that a Methodist church used from the time of its construction late in the last century until the dwindling congregation was merged with another one on the city.

Craig Garriott had been organizing pastor only since early 1981, and there were few members, and few of them had steady jobs. The church was for­mally organized in 1983, with two rul­ing elders. Soon thereafter, use of the vacant building was obtained, but the trustees were asking $250,000. The officers countered with an offer of $180,000, but they had no idea where they would get that kind of money. The contract was accepted, and then extended beyond the closing dates. Some bonds and annuities were sold. The denomination’s Five Million Fund provided $40,000. A commercial mortgage of $60,000 was obtained. At settlement time, $5,000 was still needed. The three members of the ses­sion signed a personal note for that. When the trustees of the property real­ized what they had done, they called the elders over and handed them back the $5,000 note, with “forgiven” writ­ten across its face. They said they were so moved by the Presbyterian elders’ faith and willingness to personally guarantee payment that they were excusing them from that debt.

About the time the first payments on the Five Million Fund came due another unusual provision appeared. A visitor from New England dropped a $30,000 check into the offering plate without fanfare. A call was put in to him to make sure the deacon read the amount correctly, and he asked what the officers would do with the money. When told it would be applied to the mortgage, the donor said he had a philosophical problem with churches owing money to public lenders, so he sent another $30,000 to clear up that obligation. The building has 22,000 square feet of useable space. The sanctuary can seat 350, with overflow space available. There is a pipe organ. The basement includes a large kitchen and space for a day care center for 40 children.

Bible Presbyterian Church, Merrill, Wis., dedicated a new building on an eight acre tract in February. It replaced a facility that had served for more than 30 years but which had no off-street parking. In the cold North, special attention was paid to energy efficiency. The wood frame walls are 6 inches thick, and the ceiling insulation is 14 inches. Because of these provisions, the thermostat in the sanctuary is set at 64 degrees, and when the room fills up the tem­perature rises to 74. Aluminum clad windows, steel and brick siding mean that the exterior is virtually mainte­nance free.

The structure has 6,400 square feet on two floors. On the upper level, the sanctuary is 40 by 60 feet, with foyer and restrooms taking up the rest of the space on that level. The basement includes a kitchen and versatile open space. When the site was purchased, it included an office building which is being used for Sunday School classes. The new structure was erected adja­cent to it. Cost of the new construction was $142,000, or only $22.19 per square foot. The amount was reduced substantially by the use of volunteer workmen. Also, many furnishings were brought from the old church. Proceeds from the sale of other proper­ties, contributions and some internal borrowing produced enough funds so that only $37,000 was needed to com­plete the project. Robert Smallman is pastor.

(Editor’s note: No two churches are identical. Leadership varies, abilities and interests vary, and resources vary. One of the PCA’s congregations, Tyrone Covenant Church of Fenton, Mich., decided to go an unusual route in building, and it experienced unusual blessing. The pastor, Robert L. Berkey, explains what happened in the follow­ing article.)

We are completing unit one of a three-phase building program. The total cost will be nearly one million dollars. We have no interest payments to make. The church is free of debt. Here is our story. For several years our congregation had considered building a new facility. We were out of space. The congregation continued to expand. However, a building program was just one of several issues. The separation from our former denomination had been costly. We were on a mandated schedule to vacate the property. Each apparently available building site became not available due to building restrictions, drainage problems, or highway requirements. In the midst of these issues we con­tinued to contemplate building costs, plans, and finances. On March 16, 1981 after a period of study, prayer and discussion, the session recommended to the congregation that we build debt free. A week later the congregation voted to move forward with the build­ing program on a debt free basis — that is, we incur no interest payments. In addition to this non-interest policy, definite guidelines were given the building committee for the type of structure to be erected.

Our date of vacating was Memorial Day, 1982. It was not until February of that year that we purchased a prime site of 37.5 acres. Obviously the Lord had held this property for us. It was a cash deal which nearly depleted our resources. We could not borrow money for we had committed ourselves to paying no interest. Our architect and contractor understood our policy and were willing to proceed with us. Ground was broken on March 14. Much to our pleasure we discovered the building site had exceptional drainage which allowed work to pro­ceed with little interruption. We were blessed with favorable spring weather. Construction zoomed ahead. Would the finances keep up?

Being convinced that God wanted this building completed debt-free and having committed ourselves to paying no interest was both a comfort and a challenge. It meant our repeatedly assessing our needs, building as funds were available, and wondering how this would all work out. Our people gave as the Lord pros­pered. Yet each week it was touch and go. Pledged to remain solvent, we often wondered from day to day whether we could keep going. Memorial Day loomed before us.

Building codes, lead times in order­ing materials, plus structural altera­tions and changing costs kept our minds filled with decisions. That spring several families and individuals stepped forward with funds they were lending to the church without interest payments. These totaled $107,000. Each lender wrote up a personal statement as to when the funds were to be repaid. Each lender also under­stood that the church was not legally responsible for the loans. Construc­tion continued. And we moved into the shell of a building on Memorial Day, 1982. It was not easy. The building was under construction and would con­tinue to be so for three years. Parking facilities were inadequate. Bills kept coming, but so did the funds. Our normal program of ministry had to be maintained in addition to a mission budget of over $50,000. Could we con­tinue? Indeed our policy of incurring no interest was repeatedly challenged. Each time we thought we were at the end of our rope, God gave us a special surprise. As the non-interest loans came due, each one was repaid on time, often ahead of time. Yet this was not without frustration. It seemed too long that we waited for each item in the building. But each item was a blessing and was paid for.

Early in 1983 we overstepped some limitations and allowed bills to rise beyond our funds. On April 25, 1983 the congregation met to consider the fact that we had outstanding bills of $81,400. Had we given as much as we could? Two major decisions were made that night. First, “We will pay off this $81,400 by our first anniversary Sun­day, June 5.” Second, “We will give as the Lord has prospered during these next seven weeks to clear that debt.” By the following Sunday $10,000 had been paid. The next Sunday another $10,000 was paid. By May 15 the debt was down to $53,400. On the final Sunday the offering was in excess of $65,000. Total result? Not only was the debt paid but we had excess funds of $40,000 to resume construction. And so the story has unfolded.

Several times our congregation has had to change seating arrangements in the sanctuary during the building process. This past September 15 we used the chancel area for the first time. Additional classrooms were now in use. What a day of rejoicing! This is the first of three projected buildings for our church’s ministry. It is a rectangular structure of 14,000 square feet. Included is a regulation size basketball floor, space for tennis and volleyball, space for nearly 500 worshippers, educational facilities, offices, nursery, library, and adequate parking. The cost as of November 1, 1985 stood at $933,439.26. Items yet to be completed will bring us close to the million dollar mark.

What if we had not committed our­selves to building debt-free? I don’t know the answer to this. I can only assume certain things. First, had we borrowed commercially the interest payments could easily have been sev­eral hundred thousand dollars. Sec­ond, the temptation to add things we really did not need would have been great. The urge to spend more and borrow more is a big one. Third, we as a congregation and community would have missed opportunities to see God’s hand dramatically at work building his house.

This plan has not been without cost. Tension was always present. We hurt at times for the lack of facilities. Momen­tum was sometimes lost during times of construction inactivity. But as we look back upon the whole story we can join hands and say “Thanks be unto God. He has given victory!” Early in the seventies our congregation established a Philippians 4:19 Fellowship. The basis for the fellowship was this: ‘And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Jesus Christ.” He has been faithful…

During this time several of our fami­lies have seen God move dramatically in their homes as they watched Him move in building the church. What a faith builder! From where did the funds come? They came at the right times from multiple sources. The church was always solvent. God supplied the needs through many persons. We believe this is what God wanted and wants for our church. We are nearing completion. That which was provisional is now a record of fact. Some said it wouldn’t work. Others wanted to try. Together we committed ourselves to a debt-free concept. We are glad we did.

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