Church buildings, community, and identity: The need to reinvent after 75 years

Feb. 2, 2023

By Rev. Rick King

A church’s identity is often intimately tied up in its building.

It hasn’t always been so, but you have to go pretty far back in church history, to the first or second century, to find a time when this wasn’t the case. But churches and their buildings have come to be so identified with each other in American culture, it’s often hard to separate the two, or define a church’s identity apart from its building and location.

First Presbyterian Church in the tiny northern Kansas town of Frankfort (pop. 723) faced a reckoning with its building recently, when they could no longer afford to shore up the foundation to keep it from sliding downhill.

A decade ago, they’d discovered that the sandy soil on which the 100+ year old church was built wasn’t stable, and in the past couple of years, they noticed a growing gap between the building’s wall and the large stained glass window in front.

They faced the agonizing decision to put wood cladding on the window to stabilize it and prevent further damage. But the window is visible to street traffic and had long been the most obvious symbol of the church’s identity in the town. They now had to ask, “Who are we, beyond that stained glass window?”

I’ll be telling the rest of this story during our service on Sunday. But First Presbyterian in Frankfort, Kansas, is not alone in having a building involved in an identity crisis.

With the beginning of the new year comes our annual congregational meeting, when we celebrate the previous year’s accomplishments, preview this year’s work, elect new leadership, and pass the budget for 2023. The meeting will be this Sunday, both in the Gathering Room and on Zoom; login time is 11:30, and the meeting will start at 11:45.

And 2023 is more than just a new year on the calendar: it’s also the 75th anniversary of the founding of Falcon Heights Church.

My hope is that our 75th anniversary is not just the occasion to look back at who and what we’ve been, but at our present and future, and what God is calling us to be and do in the future.

Including but not limited to our building and our relationship with the neighborhood where we’re located.

What do YOU believe God is calling us to be and do in 2023 and beyond?