City Presbyterian Church has its own church house now, and not, as planned, under a lease-to-buy contract.
The downtown church was unexpectedly able to acquire the historic Pilgrim Congregational Church property under a straight purchase contract.
“It's crazy. A donor that we had never met gave us the money to buy it out,” said the Rev. Bobby Griffith, associate pastor.
Griffith said the donor stepped forward soon after City Presbyterian revealed plans to lease, then buy, the Pilgrim property in an arrangement with Ben Sellers' Wayne Property Advisors.
City Presbyterian was able to pay 35 percent down with the rest financed through John Dodson of Legacy Bank, Griffith said. He said the price was $975,000 for the late Gothic Revival-style church house at 1433 Classen Drive and its office wing at 829 NW 13.
The price was almost three times the top bid when the 93-year-old church complex failed to sell at auction in June 2011, but less than half what the owners then said they had invested in it over eight years. Raman & Raman LLP — Dr. Rita P. Raman, a neonatal-perinatal specialist, and Dr. Tirunelveli V. Venkataraman, an internal medicine specialist — said they had $2.2 million wrapped up in the property.
The purchase closed Nov. 1. Griffith said more than 150 people came to an open house at City Presbyterian's future home last Sunday.
“We broke into three groups so we could manage the tour correctly. We all ended up in the sanctuary to talk, pray and sing. What a day!” administrative assistant Keely Steger wrote on the church blog at CityPresOKC.com. “It's a little overwhelming to think about what is still left to do — painting, patching, cleaning, building, preparing, hosting. We need a sound system, chairs, bookshelves, a welcome area, a nursery space.
“Sometimes I wonder how in the world it will get done. ... Then I remember that God actually does love me. He loves City Pres. He wants our best. And he has already provided! We have so much to be thankful for, so much to rejoice in”
The church plans a grand opening Easter Sunday, April 20. In the meantime, services will continue to be held in borrowed space at First Church, 131 NW 4.
“There's still an awful lot of work to do on the inside,” Griffith said.
The church already has ordered padded wooden seats for the main part of the sanctuary. The balcony will have vintage pews from a church in Buffalo, OK. Grand plans are in the works for 2,000 square feet of basement that will be used for children.
“We think this property sits on a key spot. It lies next to both Heritage Hills and low-income housing. It adjoins the growing Midtown area, and is only a mile from downtown,” the Rev. Doug Serven, lead pastor, wrote in a blog. “Its proximity to these locations, and its historic, majestic architecture make it a perfect fit for our church.”
Serven said he sees the old church property as the hub of citywide ministry for City Presbyterian.
“We want to welcome all people into walking with Jesus with us. Our prayer is that we'll be able to make this an inviting location that will meet the needs of all around us, and any who might come visit us. We want City Pres to be a church that is rooted in its location, but is serving those in our city — and planting churches all over the city,” he said.