The Future Church
I write to provide an update on some master planning work going on behind the scenes.
In 2020, the Vestry convened a Master Planning Committee and, per our strategic plan, Live God’s Love, charged this committee to “develop a comprehensive master plan for our campus and facilities that identifies how we can best use these assets to support our mission, in line with our parish priorities: Strengthen Community, Practice Faith, Become Antiracist, Embrace Our World, and Build Capacity.”
As described below, the Master Planning Committee has gathered numerous ideas and continues to explore options. No decisions have been made. From an initial gathering of ideas, we were able to focus on some broad goals and begin testing out some options. With the church closed because of Covid, we completed repairs and renovation of the nave, narthex, and flower room; we invested in the equipment necessary for live-streaming; and we relandscaped the corner of 42nd and Albemarle and installed the labyrinth. Now, in 2023, we aim to continue to develop options and share them. Before then, we want to engage with members of the congregation, ministries, community, and neighborhood. We’re seeking input from you and conversation about the possibilities for how we use our campus to live our priorities.
Context for these Efforts
St. Columba’s Church was founded in 1874. The buildings on our property date to several eras. The church itself was built in 1927; the Albemarle wing was added in 1958, the Nursery School was started in 1959, and the Butterworth wing was added in 1989. In addition to the playground and parking lot, St. Columba’s owns the house on the corner of Butterworth and 42nd (“Fletcher House”) and the house at 4221 Albemarle, currently occupied by Joshua Daniel and his family. Through the years, we’ve sought to be good stewards and maintain our entire property. Even so, some basic repairs and updates are needed. With St. Columba’s 150th Anniversary fast approaching in 2024, this is an ideal time to look toward and plan for the future. Deuteronomy says, “we drink from wells we did not dig;” we are grateful. And, now is the time for us to dig the wells from which future generations may drink.
St. Columba’s owns 1 3/4 acres of prime real estate located on the threshold between a lovely residential neighborhood and a growing urban corridor, one block from the Metro. Our property is our most highly valued tangible asset. As good and faithful stewards, we are asking big questions about how our property can be a source and engine for long-term health and vitality. What changes, if any, will sustain us as a center for proclaiming the Gospel of Christ – through worship, care, and mission – for our congregation, and for the wider community? What changes, if any, will strengthen our capacity for our vital ministries of music, Christian education, the Nursery School, outreach, youth, worship, and hospitality? What changes, if any, will prepare us for ministry in the future? We’re also asking if there are steps we can take with our property today that will generate revenue – directly or indirectly – for future generations. And, are there ways we want to use this asset to address our commitments to children and youth, to racial justice and ending family homelessness?
Ideas that have surfaced to date
Looking to the future, the Master Planning Committee compiled several pages of ideas from many conversations with ministry leaders, the Vestry, and staff. From these conversations, the MPC made a preliminary assessment of cost and strategic alignment, and determined to focus on welcome, accessibility and flexibility as priorities. Long-term sustainability is also important.
Many good ideas have surfaced: new entrances, new reception area, renovated courtyard, new flexible space for youth, adult formation, service programs, and community gatherings, redesigned office spaces, better music wing, better WiFi connectivity, virtual meeting capability, renovate main kitchen, make all restrooms ADA compliant, better lighting and storage in Great Hall,... and more! Throughout the process, we received many requests for new space that could support a growing youth program, provide flexible space for community use, and improve space available to the Water Ministry. The Nursery School’s Board of Governors is in the midst of strategic planning; we can incorporate specific hopes and needs that emerge from that process. Fletcher House (on the corner of 42nd and Butterworth) is not currently being used and is in serious disrepair, which creates an opportunity to explore how we can better use the property and the site for programs and/or residences. A new structure on that site could incorporate approximately 4,800-5,000 square feet of space for use by the church.
Financing the Plan
Any plan we come up with will need funding. Again, no decisions have been made, but we are considering a capital campaign in connection with our 150th Anniversary to support the final plan of the Master Planning Committee. Any new construction may require financing; we’ll get to that in due course. Of course, we will work within our resources – what’s available now and what we might be able to raise.
Engagement around the Plan
St. Columba’s plays a vital role in this Tenleytown neighborhood. We are an important beacon of hope even for those who may never choose to worship with us. We are committed to being good neighbors and to strengthening this community. We respect the fact that our neighbors will have all manner of ideas and opinions about anything we do with our property. Once we have had ample opportunity for conversation among ourselves as a congregation and nursery school, we will reach out to engage with local individuals, community institutions, and businesses.
During the first six months of 2023, the Master Planning Committee will gather ideas from the congregation, ministry leaders, staff and community. The aim is to have a set of options to consider by summer 2023 and finalize decisions later this year. Please know that the Vestry and I are committed to a process that includes everyone, that we may move forward as one body.
Please join me and others in the nave at 10:15 am this coming Sunday, January 22 – in person or live-streamed. The forum will be recorded and posted on our website. If you have questions or ideas you’d like to share, you can contact me directly. And, this is the first of many opportunities we will provide to engage with and hear from one and all.
We’re at an exciting juncture at the beginning of this new year. I am grateful for your interest, support, and prayers.