Ariz. Evangelical Church Purchases Presbyterian Sanctuary

A growing evangelical church in Arizona has purchased its third campus, a sanctuary constructed in 1927 and formerly owned by a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

City of Grace, which already has campuses in Mesa and Scottsdale, bought the Historic First Presbyterian Church of Phoenix property earlier this year and is presently renovating the facility.

Terry Crist, senior pastor at City of Grace, told The Christian Post that the purchase of the Phoenix-based property was years in the making.

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"We spent the past two years prayerfully considering the next site for our growing congregation. We were drawn to the downtown Phoenix area in light of the recent growth surge that is taking place with students, young professionals, and a growing arts community," said Crist.

"It came down to two full price offers and the Historic First Presbyterian Church Presbytery and Session elected to sell to City of Grace believing that we would steward their legacy of compassionate work in Phoenix while also expanding on new fronts."

The cost for purchasing the property came to an estimated $3.75 million. An additional $1 million is expected to be used for additional renovations.

"As an 85-year-old building which has been occupied by a small, but caring, congregation, the building needs a lot of attention in every area but the sanctuary," said Crist.

"The sanctuary looks exactly as it did 50 years ago! It is beautiful and well maintained."

John C. Poling, Interim Pastor at Historic First Presbyterian, told The Christian Post that the sale of the facility came as a result of years of decline among the congregation.

"We listed our property for sale in April, with the agreement of our Presbytery of Grand Canyon. This followed 25-30 years of efforts to reverse the loss [of] members and funding," said Poling. "We were pleased that a strong, evangelical church with reformed theology and a great heart for mission in the city wanted to continue this congregation's years of ministry downtown."

According to Poling, the Historic First Presbyterian congregation still is deciding as to whether or not to remain in the building as a renter.

"City of Grace kindly offered to allow us 24 months' rent free to function here, if we should choose to do so, negotiable at the end of that period," said Poling.

"There are many decisions that might lead us to rent or purchase another location(s) in central Phoenix."

Historic First Presbyterian is not the only mainline Protestant congregation finding its facility being sold to other religious groups due to internal decline.

In June, Grand Forks United Church of Christ sold its property to a nearby Muslim community, which changed the name of the property to the "Islamic Center of Grand Forks" (ICGF). In August, the Mars Hill megachurch purchased the old building for First United Methodist Church of Seattle, which for the past five years had been used as an entertainment hall.

Historic First Presbyterian Church was the first church to be incorporated in Arizona, having been created in 1879.

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