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St. Andrews gets fresh start and new look

The Hillsdale church is spending $800,000 to update the sanctuary

'We had an aging congregation and an aging facility that needed to be updated,' said George Vidal of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Hillsdale.

What was once a congregation of 800 members a few decades ago has become one of 350. As the loyal members began to age, the church found that they weren't attracting as many of the families and young people as they needed to help the church thrive.

'A lot of churches have trouble,' said co-pastor Patty Campbell-Schmitt. 'This congregation is saying we're going to try to turn this around.'

As part of the effort, the church is in the middle of a three-year campaign to raise the money to pay for an $800,000 remodeling project, called the Renew Campaign. The goal is to attract new members and create a more inviting space for the churchgoers they already have.

'We're hoping to have a more welcoming feeling,' Campbell-Schmitt said.

In the spirit of updating and refreshing their congregation and facility, construction on the project began this fall. The work is expected to be completed in time for Easter services.

The original church on the St. Andrew's property was built in 1954 and was added onto in the 1960s. Though the classrooms were updated a few years ago, the sanctuary has remained a little dark and uninviting, having largely been untouched for 40 years.

The new design calls for large windows to add more light and look onto the church's award-winning rose garden. Some added square footage in the front of the sanctuary will create a place for coffee and fellowship.

The church will also be designed to meet the congregation's modern needs. The platform area will be enlarged to make room for the worship band, as well as a movable lectern and communion table. Pews will be taken out in the front rows of the church and replaced with chairs that can be removed as necessary for a play or dance performance. The plans also call for a large, built-in screen so they can display the words to hymns and other important information during sermons.

'This is for the future of the church and the upcoming generations to keep it going,' Vidal said.

The church is already a fixture in Hillsdale, by having a day care downstairs during the week, renting out the adjacent house for a needy family and hosting speakers who give talks about parenting, spiritual guidance and more.

Through remodeling and expanding the programs and services the church offers, the members are trying to make their church open to everyone.

'If you're looking for a church home, come and visit,' said Campbell-Schmitt.