Historic church wants to preserve momentum

12/10/2010

Music director Jona Tickle and Dakota Johnson sing to the Lord as the capital campaign progresses at Guthrie-First UMC. Theme was "Celebrating Our Legacy, Moving Into God’s Future."

The people of Guthrie-First UMC have taken the next critical step toward their goal of rehabilitating and renovating their historic church home.

The congregation celebrated the centennial of the building earlier this year, and on Oct. 12 concluded a capital campaign, chaired by Jim Thomas. A total of $361,500 has been raised thus far for Phase 1.

The project has received the support of several prestigious preservation organizations and the Oklahoma Conference’s Department of Congregational Development.

The church was founded April 22, 1889, the day of the Run for the Unassigned Lands. The building was begun immediately after statehood in 1907 and dedicated in 1910. Pastor Mike DeMoss said the building reflects the historical legacy of Guthrie and Oklahoma as well as that of church architecture in the early 20th century.

"Our goal will be to bring the building back as close as possible to its original look and style, that shows its importance in history, while being sure that this is a living congregation with an important mission for the future. We want to continue the ministry and mission here that we’ve had for generations," Rev. DeMoss said.

To qualify for the Congregational Development funds, Craig Stinson said, the Guthrie church’s plan had to meet specific growth criteria for existing churches.

Chaired by Jimalea Patterson, a 30-year church member, a committee at Guthrie-First has wrestled with how to balance future needs of the congregation with the physical needs and historical aspects of the massive building.

The first phase of the work will center on restoration in the semi-circular sanctuary, including the impressive dome and stained glass skylight.

In 2008, the Kirkpatrick Preservation Fund for Central Oklahoma of the National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded the church $10,000 in matching funds for the writing of a Historic Structures Report. A $1,500 PlanFirst grant from Preservation Oklahoma, funded by BancFirst, and a $500 grant from Guthrie IBC Bank helped the people of the church fund the match.

"When somebody agrees with you that this is an important building and gives you money to help preserve it, it feels wonderful," Patterson said. "It encourages us to continue working."

Project coordinator Wendy DeMoss said the Historic Structures Report also helped secure other grants, including a second one from the Kirkpatrick Fund last year.


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