First Presbyterian looks to renovate church

Church hopes to raise $4.5 million to make buildings more accessible, expand space.
Saturday, March 3, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:00 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

The First Presbyterian Church in downtown Columbia is hoping to raise $4.5 million for a renovation project that will expand its fellowship space and improve accessibility.

The church’s three buildings have more than 11 combined levels, all of which are accessible only by stairs. This poses a “real challenge for families or visitors or people with mobility issues,” said Jeff Jones, spokesperson for First Presbyterian’s building committee.

“Times have changed, and we have to make things easier,” Jones added.

The idea of a renovation was first floated about eight to 10 years ago, said the Rev. Richard Ramsey, senior pastor at First Presbyterian. Other priorities put the plans on hold for a time, but the building committee has since completed engineering and building studies to ensure, among other things, that the buildings are architecturally sound. Most of the planned changes will be on the interior of the building.

“There’s nothing new as far as the footprint goes,” Jones said.

The congregation has shown its support for the project. The church’s first capital campaign raised about $100,000 more than the $1.5 million goal. Prayer groups were formed. Children were recruited to design thank-you cards and notes, and members opened up their homes for others to meet to discuss the project.

Ramsey said the congregation’s needs have remained consistent over the years.

“It was interesting in that when we started talking about it three or four years ago, the same needs came up as came up eight to 10 years ago,” Ramsey said.

Howard Heidbrink, who has been attending First Presbyterian for 22 years, uses a wheelchair, which has made it difficult to visit the church personnels’ offices. The installation of elevators will mean that Heidbrink, who will turn 80 soon, will have access to more of the building.

“The most exciting thing about FPC is its people, and I don’t have the means to visit them,” he said. “I think that this is the most wonderful thing that’s happened to our church. I’m glad I’m around to see the day when FPC is renovated.”

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