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Historic Springfield Church Undergoes Renovations

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/historicsp_3582.mp3

To prepare for its 150th anniversary, Springfield's oldest church in operation is undergoing a facelift. Christ Episcopal Church on the corner of Walnut and Kimbrough is on the National Registry of Historic Places. KSMU's Benjamin Fry visited the church and has the story.

In 1870, just five years after the civil war, a bell tower crowned by four white crosses representing the gospels was just one of the features of the church's new Gothic-style sanctuary.

At the time, this young church welcomed a small neighborhood of worshippers.

Today, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of downtown Springfield, it currently hosts more than 11 hundred worshipers, the largest Episcopalian congregation in Greene County.

Reverend Kenneth Chumbley says due to the significance of this sanctuary both historically and spiritually, the time for renovation is now.

"Naturally because of its significance spiritually, we want to make sure it's in top condition physically."

I'm just outside the historic nave, where workers are currently putting up the exterior buttresses.

Next up they plan to make improvements on the bell tower.

Those at the head of this effort are none other than a couple of church members.

The architecture and construction firms behind the renovations are owned by people who attend church there, making the project a team effort.

Construction worker Adam Curtis says though he's excited to be part of the project, working on something over a century old can sometimes be daunting.

"Once you get to tearing out, you see that there's more to the project than what the eye sees and in the interior of things the farther you tear out the more that you find that you need to replace."

Christ Episcopal has seen many updates, including a massive expansion just last year.

However, this will the first time since the church was built that this specific nave will undergo such extensive renovations.

The structure was originally built as a temporary place of worship.

Plans to raze and rebuild it in the 1920s never came to fruition because of the Great Depression.

Chumbley says today, the congregation and community's attachment to the building makes tearing it down out of the question.

"It has such powerful spiritual and symbolic importance for people, that it would take out the heart of this community."

The church has been talking about renovation since church treasurer Chris Macioce was growing up.

He says updating the sanctuary is just a continuation of what the church has recently done to reach out to downtown Springfield.

"We felt like it was going to help the downtown area and our church to become somewhat of an anchor in this area."

Blending the best of the old and new to preserve a historic and holy monument. For KSMU news, I'm Benjamin Fry.

Church officials say renovations are expected to be completed this fall before its 150th anniversary next year.