Historic church sets its sight on future with expansion project

Presbyterian congregation votes for $2 million plan

November 09, 2003|By Anne Lauren Henslee | Anne Lauren Henslee,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It was All Saints' Sunday, the first Sunday in November. After service, in the modest brick sanctuary of Churchville Presbyterian Church, one of the state's oldest congregations set its sights on the future -- voting for a $2 million expansion project to begin next year.

Since its founding in 1738, the church has grown steadily. Over the centuries, its facilities have grown along with it. By 1820, the congregation moved from tent and private home sermons to an official site at Routes 22 and 136 in the center of town, where the original church remains, alongside a 4.5-acre graveyard with headstones dating to 1819. In 1870, as attendance increased, the congregation added a three-story Italianate brick bell tower, designed by J. Crawford Neilson of the Baltimore firm Niernsee and Neilson, and hired local cabinetmaker William Shuck to build the present pulpit, pews and wainscoting.

In 1950, Bel Air architects Alexander Shaw and W. Kendall Duff designed a low, one-story brick church hall and office to the west that complements the two older sections in scale, style and color.

In 1986, Churchville Presbyterian Church was placed on the U.S. Department of Interior's National Register of Historic Places.

"We cherish the history in this congregation, but there is a future out there. The church is reaching for that now and feels led to do that," said the Rev. Joseph F. Condro.

The future lies in not only the church, whose congregation has 240 members, but also its neighboring Christian education building, constructed in 1958, which is used as a day care center, preschool and Sunday school.

Accommodating growth

About half of the $2 million will be used to construct another building to better accommodate the congregation's and community's growing need for space to house an expanded day care and preschool, as well as various meetings and Sunday school groups.

Another $570,000 will pay to repair and renovate existing education facility, and the remaining funds will be used to repair the church's sanctuary walls; upgrade the electrical outlets and wiring; replace the roof over Fellowship Hall, kitchen and offices; and upgrade the heat and air conditioning system.

It's a bold plan that the church and its members are eager to watch unfold. Condro sees it as part of the church's mission to impart Christian education and to provide a much-needed service to the community.

He is no stranger to progress. During his four-year tenure at Churchville Presbyterian, the church has hired a director of Christian education, started a ministry of specially trained lay people to help the spiritual needs of members of the church, and hired a parish nurse.

As he puts it, "There are a lot of things going on."

The expansion will double the number of students the education current building can hold at any one time, bringing capacity to about 80.

`A long time coming'

"This has been a long time in coming. There was some talk about it before I came here as a call pastor, and I've been here 4 1/2 years. But we really got serious about it over the last several years," Condro said. "All of this really centers around Christian education and the Christian education of young children from anywhere in the county. We feel it is part of our mission."

Architect Fred Ward prepared the preliminary designs. The next step is to refine those designs to include the specific details to meet all of the needs, said Condro.

The new Christian Education Building will be built first, under the direction of Churchville Construction Co. Then, the existing building will be completely closed off, gutted and renovated.

"If things go as we hope, we might start the summer of 2004," Condro said. "And we might have our first group of children in the new building by 2005."

The church plans to refinance the mortgage on the property and pay it back with fees from the school and pledges from the congregation.

"We have many more families today then we did five or six years ago," said Don Irey, chairman of the day care's board of directors. "This will help the day care, give us newer and more up-to-date facilities, and more space so there won't be crowding. And it will also give us more space for our Christian education, Sunday school and other activities for the community."

"It's exciting, all that's going on," said Condro. "The church is so old and has all these legacies. ... It's a combination of those who have been here and gone through this church for more than 200 years, merging with the people who are here today with this vision for the future. It's kind of neat how it all works out. ... It will really set the future for the church."

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