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Evergreen Presbyterian Says Goodbye to Sanctuary

Church holds last service at University Street sanctuary after Rhodes sale.

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After 64 years, Evergreen Presbyterian Church finally said goodbye to its sanctuary at 613 University Street.

The church sold its facilities to Rhodes College, which is located across the street from the church, two years ago, but the congregation held its last service there on Sunday, June 21st.

The property will add about 9.7 acres to the Rhodes campus. It includes a 1,000-seat sanctuary, a two-story education building, a gymnasium, and a variety of sports equipment. The college bought the facilities and land for $2.6 million.

Part of the reason for the sale was the church's decrease in membership, making the space larger than necessary for the congregation of about 160 people. In 1950, when the building was erected, the church had about 1,400 congregants.

University Street Sanctuary - ALAINA GETZENBERG
  • Alaina Getzenberg
  • University Street Sanctuary

The church has been able to phase out of the space in the past two years due to an agreement with Rhodes that allowed them to remain there while the college updated its master plan to include the new space.

Under the leadership of Reverend Lucy Waechter Webb, a Rhodes alumni who has been part of the church for nine months, Evergreen has been using the time to explore new locations. Over the past five months, they visited six locations, including storefronts and space in other churches.

"It's an amazing opportunity to go and do a new thing. Church in our world is dramatically shifting and that's exciting to me," Waechter Webb said. "You also can't make those changes unless you take some really bold steps, so Evergreen's decision to sell the building was a sign to me that it was a community ready for change and ready to embrace the next thing."

At Evergreen's last service, the congregation and others walked around the grounds and said prayers to bless the property's future uses, and then the final worship service was held in the sanctuary.

To wrap up the Father's Day afternoon service, a lunch and organ concert were held. Evergreen's 44-rank Reuter organ has been a part of the church for all of its 64 years. The concert highlighted its history with 10 musicians playing a diverse array of pieces.

The church will hold services this coming Sunday and for the foreseeable future at the Beethoven Club, 263 South McLean Boulevard, a historic performance venue that the churchgoers decided was an inspirational space that left them hopeful for the future, Waechter Webb said.

Rhodes has not disclosed detailed plans for their new space, although the music program will have a piece of it, including the historic organ. The relationship between Evergreen and Rhodes will continue. If the church ever decides to come back to the area, Rhodes has offered it an indefinite proposal to worship at the college.

While the future is largely unknown for Evergreen Church, all eyes are on the road ahead, according to Waechter Webb.

"We are walking out into the unknown. We are not sure exactly what is next, but we trust that as we do, there will be clarity that comes for us as a church," said Waechter Webb. "There is already just tons of imagination and ideas for partners in this city. How can we make a difference in a particular way in this city? That's the journey we are setting out on and the exploration ahead."


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