Congregations open up their buildings to serve children, the hungry, the homeless and others in need. Sacred places stabilize neighborhoods, strengthen commercial districts and significantly add to the economic health of our communities. All of this is endangered, however, when congregations can no longer afford to maintain these aging buildings. Partners has developed a family of highly-acclaimed resources to help congregations connect better to their communities, raise capital funds in new ways and preserve their historic building for future generations. We are the nation's only non-sectarian, nonprofit organization dedicated the sound stewardship and active community use of America's older religious properties.
Where Are They Now? (Part One)

New knowledge and fresh perspective can lead to long-term benefits. This is one of Partners’ core beliefs. We know that our consulting services initiate changes that ripple into every area of a congregation’s mission.

To show this principle in action, we decided to revisit some sacred places we have served. What’s happening with them today? How do they look back on our influence?

First United Methodist, Irving, Texas
In 2015, the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church contracted with Partners to enroll six of its congregations in our program called Strategic Investment in Sacred Places (SiSP). The first year of SiSP includes our New Dollars/New Partners training, followed by a year of support consultation.

All six churches face the challenges of changing neighborhoods and dwindling memberships. One of them is First United Methodist, Irving, Texas. Founded over a century ago - six years before the establishment of Irving itself - FUMC grew along with the city, and today has a large physical plant.

Cindy Alleman, longtime FUMC member, was part of the team selected for the training. She says that the Asset-Mapping module, presented by Rev. Mike Mather from Indianapolis, had an immediate impact that first year.

“As he used illustrations about his church making contact with its community,” she says, “it becameclear how many opportunities we have here at FUMC. This was an ‘aha moment’ for all of us. We have so many assets in our facility: two functioning kitchens, multiple classrooms, a gym, a new sanctuary that could be used as a concert hall, possibly for schools with no auditorium. We began to seriously explore how all our spaces could serve our community.”

The other module that captivated the FUMC team had to do with capital campaigns.

“Partners approach to fundraising opened our eyes,” says Alleman. “They taught us to not just look to our church members for funding, but to expand the circle to friends, relatives, past members, civic leaders – everyone who might have a stake in seeing our congregation survive and flourish.”

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 Cindy Alleman talks with Preston Weaver,
 Pastor of Kirkwood UMC, Irving, Texas, during the Asset Mapping training

FUMC is now in the second year of SiSP. They have applied for a seed grant through Partners, made possible in alliance with the North Texas Conference and the Lilly EndowmentThey hope to hire an architect to evaluate their hospitality spaces. The goal is to make these areas more attractive for new partners in the community. They will use the architect’s report as the foundation for a financial feasibility study and a possible capital campaign.

“Sharing our space is new for some of our members,” says Alleman. “But this openness has already led to a yoga class and an AA meeting. We are at the beginning of a new era in utilizing our building as a tool for mission and outreach.”

Baptist Temple. San Antonio, Texas
Located in downtown San Antonio – our nation’s seventh largest city – Baptist Temple maximizes the use of its facility. They credit much of this momentum to their 2015 participation in Partner’s New Dollars/New Partners training. Pastor Jorge Zayasbazan puts it this way.

“What struck our team was the overall value of our church to the community outside its membership. We saw the great need to tell our story so that we can develop fruitful partnerships.”

The church has indeed forged these alliances. Five unique congregations now use their building, as well as a charter school, a free counseling program, and an initiative called Freed by the Truth, which helps ex-offenders stay out of trouble. They recently broke ground on a community garden.

Baptist Temple is moving away from the concept of “rental,” especially since they offer space well below market standards. Instead, they use the term “shared maintenance.”

“This property,” says Zayasbazan, “is ultimately owned by God, and we are inviting the entire community to share in its upkeep. This is a completely different mindset for everyone involved.

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Members of Baptist Temple
at work on their new community garden

“For any congregation considering involvement with Partners, I would unquestionably say, ‘It is well worth the effort!’ Even if you already have a basic understanding of these principles, it will open the eyes of your church. Our membership soon saw these practices as anything but radical. They are working beautifully in so many contexts around the country!”
Tell the Compelling Story of Your Sacred Place

Be honest. If someone asked you to make a case for the value and potential of your congregation, could you quickly and confidently reply? Would the strength of your conviction draw them into your mission?

If not, we can help.

The most popular service Partners provides is our flagship training called New Dollars/New Partners for Your Sacred Place. Its manifold purpose is to strengthen congregational leadership, develop community partnerships, increase organizational effectiveness, and help sacred places deploy their buildings.

All of this begins with a module called “Making the Case for Your Sacred Place.” It’s a simple reality: unless we can tell the story of our sacred places with passion and vision, we will not be effective in attracting new partners.


During the training, participants develop a compelling “case story” through activities centered on three questions.

Who Are We? How does our congregation’s history relate to themes in American, architectural, and American religious history? How have we influenced or reflected our community? How has our building served as a symbol of local heritage? How has our congregation used its facilities to serve and interact with our neighbors? Many participants recall – or unearth – amazing aspects of their story. This can mean poring over existing histories, archival photos or material, and even recording oral testimonies from longstanding members. It’s a powerful exercise, celebrating the faithfulness of those who have gone before us and the legacy of their vision.

What Do We Have? Though participants explore many layers of this question through asset mapping in module two, the initial focus is on the congregation’s building(s). It sets the groundwork for “out of the box” thinking on how existing structures offer opportunities for new and creative ministry.

What Do We Do? No matter how limited it may be at first, most congregations open their doors to community use. This part of the training underscores the value of this work. Partners has been a national pioneer in helping communities understand the true worth of sacred places in their midst, shown in our recent landmark study, The Economic Halo Effect of Sacred Places. Participants in this module use an online tool to help them with their value estimations.

When all the answers are tabulated, the research done, the words carefully chosen, compelling stories emerge. Suzy Yowell, Director of Partners’ Texas Office, has witnessed this process many times.

“We see congregations use their case story, or pieces of it, in a variety of ways,” she says. “On their websites, in programs, at newcomers’ classes, through capital campaign materials, social media, grant proposals, even displayed in an archive room or hall. The time and effort it takes is an investment worth making! The information has an incredible impact on how others view a sacred place. The wider community sees the value of the sacred place’s service to its neighbors, how its space is shared , the architectural uniqueness of its building, and its role in the community’s history.

“If you want someone to care about you, give them something to care about!”

If you or someone you know belongs to a sacred place that could benefit from a New Dollars/New Partners training, give us a call!


 POWERHOUSE OF MISSION

Rev. Denise Bell-Blakely has been Associate Pastor at Meadowbrook United Methodist Church (MUMC), Fort Worth, for less than a year. Even after this short tenure, she says: “I have never seen a people so sensitive, so flexible to the Spirit’s moving.”

Our Director, Suzy Yowell, visited the church earlier this year and was equally amazed. This is why we feel compelled to tell the story of their powerhouse mission.

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In 1928, two smaller Methodist congregations in the Meadowbrook area merged to form MUMC. Like so many urban congregations, the church experienced dramatic demographic changes in the 60s and 70s, with large groups of African-American and Hispanic residents moving into the neighborhood. Unfortunately, this caused some “white flight,” cutting into the church’s budget and membership.

However, the result was ultimately positive. Gary Cumbie, a long-time Lay Leader and past Board Chair at Meadowbrook says, “The folks that have stayed really believe that this is where we need to be.”

Several years ago, the church adopted this mission statement: “We are a Christian fellowship embracing our community with hope, acceptance, and unconditional love.  We understand that true community change can only occur when we open our doors and hearts to those outside of the congregation.” It sounds lofty, yet believing something and actually putting it into action can be vastly different realities. MUMC lives out this creed by sharing its huge physical plant, including the sanctuary, fellowship hall, scores of classrooms, and their Community Life Center (a gym/multiuse facility).

This is an amazing example of opening your doors! These facilities are active nearly every day of the week with a breathtaking variety of community groups. Here is a partial list: the local neighborhood association, the East Fort Worth 4-H Club, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Tarrant Actors Regional Theater, karate classes, Early Childhood Matters of Fort Worth, Upward Basketball, Cheerleading, Soccer, a Games Day for older adults, Rotary Club, a Bible Study aimed at women who have been homeless and/or victims of abuse. This summer the church will host Project Transformation, a residency for college students who will serve elementary school children in the neighborhood.

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Understandably, the neighborhood loves MUMC, and like many sacred places that anchor their communities, it is often taken for granted. The congregation faces two dilemmas.

First, how will they provide the volunteer labor to oversee all these outreach programs? Their membership is relatively small and aging; they have the will, but many of them are worn out.

A recent event might foreshadow a solution.

The Young Men’s Leadership Academy (YMLA) is a male-only school of the Fort Worth ISD, providing a rigorous college-prep curriculum. When their basketball team had no place to practice, MUMC’s Pastor, Rev. Marilyn Jones, saw an article about the problem in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Exemplifying this church’s openness, she contacted another congregational leader and proposed that they offer their gym. Once again, MUMC opened its heart and doors.

Simultaneously, Upwards Sports, a Christian organization which also utilizes the gym, experienced a need for coaches to guide their elementary school children. Rev. Jones suggested that the older boys at YMLA take on this task as a way of “playing forward” the gift they have received. They agreed, and all nine of the varsity players are now serving as coaches.

Is this a harbinger of things to come? Will the many groups that converge at MUMC learn to support each other with volunteers and resources? True to its nature, MUMC is flexible and sensitive to future opportunities.

But there is a second dilemma, one faced by most historic churches. Where will they get the funds to maintain the facility so many of their neighbors enjoy? They currently have a large debt from upgrading their heating/cooling system, and there are needed upgrades to the sanctuary as well as deferred maintenance on the roof.

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Gary Cumbie and Rev. Denise Bell-Blakely

MUMC is preparing for a capital campaign, and they approach it with their customary optimism.

“This church’s mission has been transformational for me,” says Cumbie. “I have learned that Christianity does not primarily provide a comfort zone. It gives us the opportunity to stretch.”

Rev. Bell-Blakley adds, “We are all committed to the evolution of this church, the next incarnation of what Meadowbrook is to be. With God, all things are possible.”

Stay tuned!
A Church That Inspires Us

The historic preservation movement began at the grassroots level, and this is where its deepest roots still thrive. A few passionate individuals can make all the difference in preserving their place’s history.

This was clearly evident when PSP visited St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Falls County, Texas. It was the fifth stop on a tour we led of 12 historic sacred places on February 27th, part of the Preservation Texas 2017 Summit.

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German settlers founded this church, originally known as St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran, in 1894, erecting its present structure in 1920. It is a beautiful example of the gothic revival style, with a corner bell and impressive stained glass windows. During its heyday, the church held 120 worshipers. Even today, in honor of their heritage, the congregation conducts Christmas Eve worship services partially in German.

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St. Paul’s motto is “Whoever you are and whatever your circumstances in life, God loves you, and you are welcome here.” However, their beautiful structure that allows this hospitality is in dire need of renovation. The basement walls that operate as a foundation are buckling inward severely.
  
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Given their small membership, it would be easy for the members of St. Paul’s to feel discouraged, even hopeless. Just the opposite is true. A corps of members is passionately motivated to save this sacred place that embodies so much of their past. They have established:

  • website that highlights the capital campaign and restoration needs.
  • Brochures and business cards to spread the appeal, including this phrase: “Please join us in preserving this beacon on the hill for future generations.”
  • crowd funding page that makes it easy to give.
  • A database of potential donors, including any living relatives of members whose history is part of St. Paul’s story.

One creative aspect of their website is a “memories” section, where a former member recently posted these words.

“I have so many fond memories of St. Paul’s. My grandfather, born in 1898, told of helping to dig the church basement. I remember spending Saturdays with my grandparents cleaning the church for Sunday service. My father was Sunday School Superintendent. I remember Christmas Eve pageants and having to pack all the costumes and stage curtain away before we could go home for our family celebration. To me, with its tall steeple and beautiful windows, St. Paul’s is a ‘church’s church.’ All my prayers and support for a successful restoration campaign!”

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Carol Dietrich, 69, is the Chairperson of the fundraising campaign. St. Paul’s is inseparably a part of her story; her extended family members – including her parents and grandparents – are all buried in the adjacent cemetery. Because of recent health problems, Carol had grown inactive, but that would soon change.

“I wasn’t living a purpose driven life,” she says with a smile. “Then the opportunity arose to chair our fundraising efforts, and I volunteered. I left there thinking ‘What have I done?’ Sure, I have struggled with doubts when I look at the money needed to repair our foundation. But every time I do, something great happens. I feel God is helping direct this effort. I will do everything in my power to make sure St. Paul’s survives.  There is so much history here, and this church has always been a cornerstone for this community. It would be such a shame to see it crumble.

“This has given me a new passion for living.”
Historic Churches Celebrate
First National Fund Training in Fort Worth

On October 23, 1819—a chilly morning in Boston Harbor—the sailing ship Thaddeus embarked for the “Sandwich Islands.” Among the passengers were Christian missionaries Asa and Lucy Goodale Thurston, accompanied by four Hawaiian youth.

They arrived at their destination on April 4, 1820. An entry in the ship’s journal says, “At 10 o’clock this morning, 163 days from Boston, we came to anchor…about a mile from the palace.” That palace belonged to King Kamehameha and Queen Regent Ka’ahumanu. The royal couple granted the Thurstons permission to teach their faith, and they founded Mokuaikaua Church, the first Christian congregation on the Hawaiian Islands.

By 1837, the congregants built a sanctuary adorned with recycled stones from an ancient Hawaiian temple. The interior featured lustrous koa wood. That structure, majestic and beautiful, still sits in the middle of Kailua Kona on the Big Island, welcoming over 4,000 visitors every month. It became part of the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

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Mokuaikaua is one of 14 churches selected in the first round of the National Fund for Sacred Places. Made possible by grants from the Lilly Endowment, this partnership between PSP and the National Trust for Historic Preservation will provide up to $10 million in capital and development grants to 50 congregations of diverse faiths over the next four years.

Nine of the fourteen met in Fort Worth on January 23-25 for the first National Fund Training. Led by Partners’ staff, participants focused on effective capital campaigns. This will be vital as each team prepares to apply for matching grants ranging from $50,000 - $250,000. The nine represented a broad, fascinating cross-section of American sacred places, including:

  • Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church (San Antonio, TX)
  • First Christian Reformed Church (Grand Rapids, MI)
  • Kadesh A.M.E. Zion Church (Edenton, NC)
  • Broad Bay Congregational United Church of Christ (Waldoboro, ME)
  • Mokuaikaua Church (Kailua-Kona, HI)
  • North Christian Church (Columbus, IN)
  • Trinity United Methodist Church (Idaho Falls, ID)
  • Trinity-St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (San Francisco, CA)
  • Urban Grace (Tacoma, WA)

David de Carvalho has been Pastor at Mokuaikaua since 2011. He says this about the training. “Partners for Sacred Places is highly skilled, professional, and efficient. It’s encouraging to know they will help us raise the money and community support we need. We will use the funds we obtain to repair the landmark steeple of our historic church.”

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The team from Kadesh AME Zion Church, Denton, North Carolina. (Left to right): Rev. Michael Gaddy; John Hildreth, VP National Trust, North Carolina; Mike Irvin, Executive Director of the Commission, Denton Historical Foundation

Our Director, Suzy Yowell, and Program Manager, Alison Hernandez worked tirelessly to coordinate the many details for the gathering.

“The level of energy, dedication, and talent was remarkable,” says Yowell. “This opportunity will be a game changer for both these congregations andtheir communities as they  preserve their rich spiritual, historical and architectural assets for generations to come.”

To read more about the congregations that participated in the training, click here

TEXAS CONGREGATION BECOMES FIRST RECIPIENT OF
 PSP’S NATIONAL FUND FOR SACRED PLACES

Partners for Sacred Places and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are pleased to announce the launch of an unprecedented $14 million National Fund for Sacred Places! The Fund is a program of Partners for Sacred Places in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The National Fund is supported by an Advisory Committee, bringing together faith leaders, architects, and philanthropists from across the country to inform the grant-making process. The Fund will provide up to $250,000 in capital grants (in addition to planning grants and tailored assistance) to at least 50 congregations of a diversity of faiths over four years.

We are excited that
Divine Redeemer (DR) Presbyterian Church in San Antonio has been selected as the first fund recipient from Texas. This congregation, along with its partner House of Neighborly Service has served for 100 years in one of San Antonio’s most difficult barrios. Founded as a Sunday School class for refugees from the Mexican Revolution in 1914, it has maintained a distinct heart for ministering to some of the most vulnerable residents of San Antonio. Here you can read a condensed Case Study or the booklet A Century of Service.”

Early participants at Divine Redeemer/House of Neighborly Service

DR recently participated in our New Dollars/New Partners training. It was a life-changing experience. Telling its story, understanding its assets more deeply, and reaching out for new funding and partners helped set the stage for this grant. Sharon Guerrero, one DR’s elders, says, "The time we spent with New Dollars/New Partners was so worthwhile. They provided a road map for our future."

Another unique aspect of DR is the pedigree of its mission-style sanctuary. Dedicated in 1951, it was designed by noted architect Harvey P. Smith, who had helped renovate both the Governor’s Mansion and two San Antonio Missions during the Depression. Smith was an early preservationist dedicated to restoring and maintaining the historical beauty and traditions of San Antonio. His legacy lives on today.

Exterior of DR today

DR will work to supplement this grant with a capital campaign of its own. Their excitement level is high, seen in these words from DR’s pastor, Reverend Rob Mueller:

“Divine Redeemer and our partner, House of Neighborly Service, are ecstatic to have been selected by the National Trust for the Preservation of Sacred Places initiative. About 3 ½ years ago we had an engineering firm look at the condition of our facility and discovered over $600,000 worth of necessary repairs and upgrades. That was incredibly discouraging, because as we looked at available resources, it felt impossible. This grant has turned the impossible into possible! Now we believe we can get our facility into a condition that makes it a delight to live and work in on a daily basis.” 
TIMING CAN BE EVERYTHING!

When it comes to the life of a sacred place, PSP knows that support at just the right time makes all the difference. Consider this example from Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, Dallas.

Oak Lawn is an anchor congregation in the Big D, one whose fabled history is decidedly Texan. The story goes that Rev. Hiram Cullum, an itinerate Methodist preacher, rallied the first congregants around his covered wagon in 1876 along the banks of Turtle Creek. Dallas had been officially incorporated only 20 years earlier.

The newly formed church bloomed with the city, eventually becoming a landmark that stretched an entire city block. And like many mainline churches, its trajectory took a painfully familiar arc – peaking in the 1950s with over 3,000 members, then declining significantly in the following decades.

During those years, the changes in Oak Lawn’s downtown neighborhood were immense. There was a period of when it shifted from an upscale environ to one considered undesirable. By the 1980s, property prices plummeted and many people fled. But throughout it all, Oak Lawn had a defining characteristic.

“Our commitment,” says Rev. Dr. Anna Hosemann-Butler, Oak Lawn’s Senior Pastor, “has been to stay in this neighborhood, to minister exactly where we are planted, no matter what economic or demographic changes we face.”


Oak Lawn then and now

For inner-city churches with huge facilities, that commitment can be difficult to sustain. The cost of maintaining the structure while paying staff and fueling ministries has caused many historic sacred places to close their doors forever.

In a bid to avoid this fate, Oak Lawn sought the help of PSP, participating in a 2007 New Partners/New Dollars training sponsored by the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. After the training, Oak Lawn retained its close ties to PSP. In 2010 it applied for, and received, a small grant to conduct a building assessment. The report uncovered costly deferred maintenance, most notably the critical need to replace their roof which stretched three quarters of a block. Oak Lawn wondered, “Where will we get the funds for these repairs”

It was at this exact juncture that PSP provided a bridge to the future. Because of its reputation in fueling the restoration and revitalization of sacred places, PSP’s work with Oak Lawn attracted a donor willing to make a sizeable gift of $100,000, earmarked for Oak Lawn but administered through PSP.

How much difference did this make? Rev. Dr. Hosemann-Butler explains.

“When I first came on board at Oak Lawn, we were getting our new roof thanks to PSP. That grant was critical. It helped us not only replace our roof and accomplish other repairs; it allowed us to redirect funds to other areas of redevelopment.”

Suzy Yowell, Director of PSP’s Texas Office says, “The congregation of Oak Lawn doesn't just talk about embracing change and engaging their community, they live it!  In addition to the numerous programs they host inside their building, they also take their mission and energy into the neighborhood. The people and businesses around them see the congregation as friendly and accepting neighbors who provide for the needs of others. Truly knowing and understanding your community plays a key role in setting the stage for long-term sustainability. Oak Lawn is a model for this!”
Moving into Our Next Ten Years

The PSP – Texas Office turns ten years old this year. We are receiving an unprecedented number of inquiries about our programs and services, and we will highlight new partnerships as they develop. Until then, here are four projects about which we are very excited.

Carmelite Monastery in Stanton, Texas: Mentioned in a previous newsletter, this is a partnership with the Martin County Convent, Inc. in their efforts to preserve this existing 1884 adobe structure. At the very moment this newsletter is released, PSP is conducting a community discovery study to help local stakeholders define a clearer vision for the future use of the site. The restoration has already begun as evidenced in these two recent photos.

Art in Sacred Places (AisP): PSP encourages space sharing as a vital way for sacred places to serve their communities. Too often, large spaces like fellowship halls, classrooms, and kitchens go dormant and underutilized during the week.

A unique program under this heading is AiSP. In 2015, with a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, PSP conducted a study in three major cities - Detroit, Baltimore, and Austin. The purpose was to see how sacred places could help meet the space needs of artists - especially emerging dance and theater groups struggling to get established.

Austin was a perfect candidate. Long known for a music scene that rivals Nashville, it has shown through events like South by Southwest that its creative community extends to all media: film, theater, dance, visual arts, and literature. This thriving art scene contributes nearly a quarter of a billion in revenue to the local economy each year. However, the skyrocketing growth and increased real estate prices in Austin have made it extremely difficult for emerging artists to find rental/retail space for their activities. The PSP study showed that sacred places in Austin can be instrumental in meeting this need.

Now, with new grant money from both the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the City of Austin’s Department of Economic Development, PSP will move to the next phase. With the help of the Austin Creative Alliance, a Partner’s consultant will further develop the congregational and artist database already in place, hold focus groups and training workshops, facilitate the partnership process, and identify a way to establish a shared administrative co-op facility for artists.

Stay tuned for updates on this far-reaching and meaningful movement!


Leadership Fort Worth (LFW): PSP understands and values the power of great partnerships that benefit our communities. That’s why we are excited that LFW has chosen to focus their attention this year on Partners collaborative work with Early Childhood Intervention of North Texas. Together, we will facilitate space matches that place this critical programming for developmentally delayed children in welcoming historic sacred places throughout Fort Worth.

LFW is one of the oldest community leadership programs in the nation. It brings together a diverse group of Fort Worth decision makers who want to broaden their perspectives and use their resources to address identified needs in our community. It is an honor to partner with them!



The Texas Sacred Places Project: This online archive has long been cheered and supported by a multitude of Texas universities, architects and preservation organizations across the state. The project is now entering phase two, a resource center for rural congregations to access Partner’s programs and connect with advocates and resources throughout Texas.

Hope is Alive at Fain Presbyterian Church, Wichita Falls, Texas

Historic churches impact their communities through service and beautiful architecture. Fain Presbyterian Church (FPC), Wichita Falls, fits this role perfectly. And right now, following years of struggle, it is discovering new hope with the help of PSP.

Founded in the 1880s, Fain grew slowly, changing locations numerous times. After almost failing during WWII, it entered its Golden Age, riding the postwar boom that swept through America.

“It was a prosperous era,” says Dave Crawford, Fain’s Pastor since 2000. “Oil money poured into Wichita Falls, as well an influx of new residents. The church developed great leadership, involving itself in local and international mission. This has always been a very special place to the community.”

The Fains, a prominent local family, donated matching funds to purchase land and construct a building near the Country Club. It’s a beautiful, neo-gothic structure, an architectural treasure of north Texas, complete with a basement basketball court. Over the years, FPC has generously shared its quarters with civic groups like Cub Scouts, the Presbyterian Children’s home, AA, and a Men’s Bible Study.

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FPC bucked national trends for mainline denominations. It stayed viable well into the ‘80s. But as children moved away and the congregation aged, it dipped from 400 members to less than 100. Crawford, with a background in church redevelopment, knew something radical needed to happen. Other FPC leaders agreed.

Their first step was to get involved with New Beginnings, a revitalization program of the Presbyterian Church (USA). “We returned from a national conference,” says Crawford, “and immediately formed small groups to discuss our history and hopes for the future. Our members took it seriously. It helped us stop clinging to a past that will never return.”

One of the most significant challenges facing FPC is the size and condition of its aged building. Historic stained glass windows need refurbishing. A sanctuary wall damaged by an extended drought demands replacement. The cost of these repairs and ongoing maintenance are too much for FPC. They are currently seeking someone to occupy the premises, and have spoken with numerous organizations. Anyone who takes on the project will have to spend a small fortune in repair and retrofitting. If that organization will also allow them to stay, FPC would love it.

Despite these daunting obstacles, FPC has not given up. They recently took another step by retaining the services of PSP.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to work with a congregation in Wichita Falls and give something back to this amazing community," says Suzy Yowell, Director of PSP's Texas Office. "We have ties that bind us to this city since our original start up money for the Texas office was a $1 million dollar grant from the Wichita Falls Community Foundation-Dick Bundy Donor Advised Fund in 2006."

Enlivened by PSP’s assistance - especially asset mapping - FPC has come to believe they will survive in a new form, perhaps in a new place.

 “Simultaneously,” adds Crawford, “God has provided a unique opportunity. We are hosting a new congregation that split off from First Presbyterian, and we are exploring the possibility of merging with them.”

This story is not finished. It can encourage many churches across the U.S. facing similar challenges.

“Our core leadership remains very open to change,” says Crawford. “There has been a huge attitudinal shift. New Beginningshelped us leave the past behind, and PSP is giving us viable paths to the future. We are hopeful!”