By Bill Robinson
Richmond’s First Christian Church will dedicate a new $3 million addition to its West Main Street building Sunday.
In addition to its two morning worship services, a special 2 p.m. dedication service is planned.
Dr. Paul Prather, a popular newspaper columnist and Mount Sterling pastor, will speak at the afternoon service.
A harpist will play in the new structure’s loggia, and a bagpiper will lead those who are able in a march from the sanctuary into the building. Trumpeters will herald the dedication, said Dr. Glenn Burkett, who was appointed First Christian’s interim senior minister almost a year ago.
The church is inviting the entire community and issuing a special invitation to former or inactive members to attend the dedication, he said.
Burkett was in his fourth year as chair of the church’s capital campaign when he accepted a two-year appointment as interim minister.
The building’s dedication comes after nearly four years of planning and fundraising followed by more than a year of construction. Fundraising continues as the church still owes about $2.2 million on the project, he said.
“We’re very fortunate that people have been very generous in their giving,” Burkett said.
Much of the giving has taken the form of memorials. For example, the two large crosses made of colored, faceted glass in the building’s facade, as well as a rose window and a grand piano that will sit in its loggia, were made possible by memorial donations. The crosses are illuminated at night.
The new, larger structure replaces one constructed in 1953. Going from one floor to the next in the old building required traversing at least 16 steps. It did not have central air conditioning, and the ceiling of one level was the floor of another, preventing the installation of ductwork. Asbestos also had been used in its construction, Burkett said.
In addition to better serving the congregation’s needs, the new building will be shared with the community in keeping with the church’s commitment to being an open, inclusive congregation that acts as an influence for good in the community, Burkett said.
The church has a history of community service, he said. Among other efforts, the church or members have played leading roles in the founding of Open Concern, Habitat for Humanity of Madison County, Saint Andrews Place and Hope’s Wings.
Construction of the building also represents a commitment to downtown Richmond, Burkett said.
As the congregation reflected on its future several years ago, it decided to retain its historic location at the corner of West Main Street and Lancaster Avenue, he said.
However, the expansion required the demolition of a home more than 120 years old. The Richmond Architecture review board approved the demolition of the Queen Anne-style house after it was found to be structurally unsound.
The new structure has recast the approach to downtown Richmond from the west in a manner which the church hopes will help breathe new life into the area, both symbolically and functionally.
The crosses in the building’s facade, impressive during the day, create an even more dramatic impression at night.
The initial impetus for the building was to enable the church to better serve families with children as well as the elderly and those challenged by mobility, Burkett said.
The building’s lower floor houses a nursery and church offices. The upper floor will include a children’s worship area and classrooms. Stained glass windows from the previous building are used in the classrooms.
A covered, drive-up entrance will allow access to the sanctuary from the new building without climbing steps. A drive-up entrance at the rear also will facilitate easy access to the basement and then other levels of the church by elevator.
The basement that adjoins the church’s old fellowship hall, in which sound and projection systems are installed, will serve as a banquet and meeting area that will be available for community use.
“We invite everyone to join us Sunday at 2 p.m. as we celebrate this new chapter in the life of our church and its community,” Burkett said.
Bill Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or at 624-6690.