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Building on the past

Clergy couple’s historic churches undergo major renovations

February 12, 2010

The sanctuary  of First and Franklin Presbyterian Church under construction, in yellow  lighting.

Restoration of the First and Franklin Presbyterian Church sanctuary is expected to be completed this spring.

BALTIMORE

For the past 10 years, the husband-and-wife pastoral team of Revs. Bill Hathaway and Alison Halsey have discovered that the foundation of their marriage is strong enough to withstand simultaneous renovation projects at their churches.

“This has worked because we are pastors with 30 years of experience under our belts,” said Hathaway, who has been married to Alison for 32 years and has served First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis, Md., for 10. “The demands can be great at times, so we intentionally pace ourselves and take time off when the opportunity presents itself. Because we are so busy, we cherish the time we do have with one another.”

Halsey, the pastor of First and Franklin Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, affirmed her husband’s sentiments.

“It can get rather crazy and hectic at times, but we both share common beliefs and goals when it comes to our commitment to the Lord and to the church,” she said.

The renovation projects, both multi-million-dollar undertakings, are reshaping the faces of FPC-Annapolis and First and Franklin. The churches have a number of similarities: they each have long, storied histories and both have overdue repairs.

Under the leadership of Hathaway and Halsey, the congregations are united in their commitment to preparing their churches for the future.

First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis

First’s 700-member congregation began its quest to upgrade the church’s facilities in 1999.

A capital campaign fundraising effort provided for the remodeling and rebuilding of church properties, including the upgrading and additions of heating, air conditioning and electrical systems.

That work was completed in 2005, but the congregation extended the project to include the purchase and renovation of other church properties: the Kinhart Center and the Zimmerman-Wilson House.

The Kinhart Center is named for Howard A. Kinhart, a long-time Annapolis educator and a dedicated member of First from 1934 until his death in 1986. Kinhart and his wife, Mildred, left an endowment to the congregation that served as a major gift to the capital campaign. It included the reconstruction of three Duke of Gloucester houses that now bear the Kinhart name. What is the center used for?

The Zimmerman-Wilson House, a Victorian-style home, was purchased by First in 2001. The registered historic house was home to Charles Zimmerman, the U.S. Naval Academy’s bandmaster.

It seemed only appropriate that FPC, founded in 1846 and located in downtown Annapolis, purchase and renovate the building known as the Z-W House because the church serves as the National Naval Memorial of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

First’s Presbyterian Women have furnished the downstairs with period antiques, and the distinct presence of Zimmerman is evidenced by portraits, sheet music and memorabilia obtained from the USNA archives.

The house is now a popular site not only for church use, but for small meetings and receptions.

“It’s been rather remarkable seeing the spirit of God moving within a community,” said Hathaway, who arrived at First shortly after the project began. “Everyone selflessly giving and doing their part has been a marvelous expression of God’s spirit.”

Elders Martha Johnson and Dick Cobb are two key members who have served as driving forces behind the project since its inception, Hathaway said.

“It’s just astounding what we have been able to accomplish,” said Johnson. “Many of the people who are members here now and helping in the completion of the project were not around when it first started. Everybody has been able to pitch in and do something. We’ve had a lot of fun working together and accomplishing something that will last.”

Johnson said Cobb deserves a great deal of credit, serving as project manager for more than a decade.

“He has grit and tenacity like it’s nobody’s business,” said Johnson. “He knows how to get things done.”

Hathaway says the church’s Sweat Equity program has played a vital role in the life of the project.

Since 1997, volunteers of all ages have showed up every Saturday and some Tuesday evenings. During that time they have upgraded and refurbished 90 percent of the main building, rebuilt the townhouses to create the Kinhart Center, created a courtyard and connecting walkways, restored a house in town for a refugee family and renovated the manse.

Church officials estimate 90,000 hours of volunteered sweat equity time have been accumulated over the years.
 
Hathaway estimates the church has raised $1 million as part of its capital campaign. He added that $3 million in work has been completed, with nearly two-thirds done through donations of time and materials.

“When I arrived, the project was in its infancy,” said Hathaway. “That it has continued and that the enthusiasm has not been lost is an attribute to our congregation. The people here have a progressive theology with a ‘roll up your sleeves and get the job done attitude.’ They are not afraid of work.”

First and Franklin

With its Gothic architecture and its 273-feet high steeple pointing into the heavens, First and Franklin Presbyterian Church is hard to overlook.

Its sanctuary, with ornate “pendants” hanging from the ceiling in parallel rows, is both majestic and breath-taking in appearance. The church, referred to as an exquisite example of “Flamboyant Gothic” architecture, serves as the home to a congregation of 180 members.

Located about a mile from the Baltimore Harbor, the 249-year old church is in the process of getting much-needed renovations.

The congregation knew that updating the church, which still had its original pews and horsehair stuffing, would be no easy task.

Undaunted, church members went about raising $1 million in pledges for the first phase of the renovation project, which includes renovating the sanctuary and installing air conditioning. An additional $500,000 in planned giving has been promised.

“It is an incredibly gorgeous sanctuary,” Halsey said, “but it was evident that something needed to be done.”

The project began five years ago with the goal of getting more people connected to the church, she said, adding that within six months, nearly all the money needed for the first phase had been raised.

“It’s been uplifting to see the commitment that people have made to this project,” Halsey said. “There have been both large and small contributions. They all matter. I have seen $100 contributions that have had the same sacrificial significance as much larger contributions.”

Because of the finely detailed carvings in the sanctuary and interior rooms of the church, several architects, consultants and an accomplished church renovator have been called on to perform the required work. Graduates of local art schools have even been put to good use.

The church hopes to complete the restoration this spring. Scaffolds crossing the width of the sanctuary will be taken down and replaced with rows of congregants sitting in newly cushioned pews.

“I think this whole project has been directed by the Lord,” Halsey said. “God has had God’s hand in it from the beginning.”

The second step in the project will be to renovate a building behind the church at an estimated cost of $2 million. The building, which once served as a fellowship hall, is now used as a day care facility that will soon close. The renovations will transform the building into a fellowship hall once again.

The third phase in the project will be the construction of a brand new building and passageway that will go across the courtyard and connect all three buildings. Also, part of the courtyard will be turned into a columbarium for the cremated remains of members of the church.

“It’s is amazing to see how God has moved the people of this congregation and this community,” said Halsey. “Much of it can be attributed to being still and listening for God’s directions. It will be interesting to see how God leads this church into the future.”

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