For decades, Tenth has cast a longing eye toward the property next door. After all, it represents the only way Tenth could ever expand onto adjacent space. Each successive senior minister has explicitly prayed that at the right time God would give us the building.
A month from now, on January 11, we’ll be asked as a congregation to vote on whether to purchase the building. Is this the right time? Why now? That’s the question that loops through my mind as I think through this year.
At our congregational meeting last December, we constituted a committee to think about how best to renovate the 1716 building, which we had just purchased from the Alliance. I was assigned to the committee, but before the committee’s first meeting, before we spent any money on architects or feasibility studies, our neighbors told us they wanted to sell the long-desired 1710–12 property. Chairman Frank Harder moved that we pause discussions on 1716 and prayerfully assess this new opportunity.
We resolved to go carefully, even gingerly, forward. Liam visited each parish to report on the opportunity and ask for prayer. At the same time, George McFarland enlisted congregants to join his Band of Gideons, which committed to pray steadfastly about what we should do. Meanwhile, Frank enlisted the real estate professionals on the committee to help evaluate the property.
With over 12,000 net square feet of usable space, the 1710–12 building and its attendant carriage house offer more room than the 1716 and 315 buildings combined. And because the carriage house abuts our current nursery, it would allow us to seamlessly expand our current footprint. To have everyone together in one space is enticing. Member Liz Voboril, reflecting on the value of a connected campus, said, “I think about it the way a mom often wants to have all her adult kids under the same roof when home for Christmas. The community that you build through hallway hellos, opening doors, and mingling in common space is priceless.”
The initial asking price of $5.45 million seemed more than we could countenance. But after weeks of conversation and negotiation, we have the opportunity to purchase it for $5.3 million, with the sellers making a very generous contribution that lowers our net price to $4.15 million. If you’re like me, any price ending in “millions” seems staggering but, for comparison, a smaller single-family home a block from the church is currently selling for $4.75 million. We are looking at an exceptional deal.
But in a year when we need to trim budgets, even an exceptional deal might seem too much to manage. Providentially though, the sellers have asked to lease the property for six months or more, and the trustees have found such affordable financing that the rental income should cover the costs of ownership for the entire first year. As Clive Stockdale noted, just when you think it couldn’t get any better, it does.
The Building and Tenth
People ask how, in a year of church trauma and budget cuts, we could contemplate such a purchase, but perhaps that’s the wrong question. Maybe we need to ask why, in the midst of such a year, God has put the building before us.
I can’t help but wonder: what does he have for us to do? In the decade since our last strategic plan, many in our neighborhood have become more affluent. But while the average income of families living near the church now stands above $200,000, they need Jesus just as much as ever. How do we connect with all our neighbors, the prosperous as well as the homeless? We need to struggle with that. Could it be that God wants us to have this building, a building more elegant than we would ever have built, as a tool for outreach? Could it be that just when we are most distracted, he wants us to focus again on what it means to minister in the city?
Why now? Of course, we can’t know the answer, but we can take it to the Lord in prayer. In the month we have before the vote, let’s commit ourselves to praying, asking God to give us one mind and to give us his heart for the city.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Terri Taylor. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org