Church marks largest renovation project in Tulsa's history
BY KENDRICK MARSHALL World Staff Writer
Sunday, September 09, 2012
For Sand Springs resident John Roden and his two young daughters, Sunday wasn’t going to be just another typical service at First Presbyterian Church.
The group would be a part of history as Tulsa’s oldest congregation began a new era by holding the first services since it underwent a $40 million renovation and expansion, making it the largest such project for a church in the city’s history.
“This is the first time we’ve been here since the renovation,” Roden said while flanked by Finley, 2 and Addison, 5, who are staples in children’s Sunday School classes. “It is awesome ... it brings happiness to me.”
The Rev. James Miller, senior pastor, shared similar thoughts during the dedication ceremony held just outside the 90-year-old building.
“It is a great thing for Tulsa,” Miller said about the project that was aided with the generosity of 644 donors. ”For Tulsa to have vibrant, healthy congregations downtown, it’s a huge blessing,”
The crown jewel of the project was a massive 160-foot bell tower and steeple located on the south side of the existing building that members said serves as a reminder of how far the church had come since 1885.
“A tower like this one with a steeple is a tower intended to remind people the vertical aspects of life that is enriched by the creator and redeemer of our lives,” Miller said. “It will offer primary access to the worship sanctuary where individuals and families can come for generations.”
In addition to the bell tower, the renovation of the Bernsen Community Life Center allowed the church to accommodate more members, hold space for various classes and open up the opportunity for expanded local and global outreach through initiatives such as Helping Hands Ministries, according to the Rev. Elaine Cervini.
“It means a bright future,” Cervini said. “It is kind of a launching pad. It is going to launch into a ministry for the common good.”
Karen Wygle, 54, of Tulsa, said the improvements will “build up the morale of the church and the community.”
Congregation members and attendants get a free breakfast buffet after dedication ceremonies for the newly constructed steeple tower at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Tulsa on Sunday. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World