Installing an entrance from the street to the sanctuary in a church that was built in 1843 is not easy, but that's exactly what five members of Westfield's First Presbyterian Church were determined to accomplish during the past five months.
Although previously it took many months - indeed, a few years - before August 2013 when the congregation unanimously decided to proceed to go through the phases necessary to launch a delicate project.
After architect David Williams submitted a plan, which had to be somewhat trimmed to match the budget, contractor G.L. Olson started construction that month. After finishing the second week in December, a Certificate of Occupancy formally opened the entrance for the first Sunday in 2014 from McClurg Street into the sanctuary for the congregation to welcome the New Year.
Photo by Ann Weidman
First Presbyterian Church major project committee members are all smiles after seeing the new completed entryway from McClurg Street to the sanctuary, from left seated, Pete Bills, Pastor Steve Morse, Harry Barton; standing are Chairman Don Eno and Gerry Rogers. Far right is Ryan Olson, contractor G.L. Olson vice president. Absent from photo is Jim Minton.
In between those dates is the real story: What did the Olson crew have to do to achieve a flawless entry from outside into a sacred haven, one that has cherished handmade stained glass windows? And one of those revered windows would have to be moved to make way for a door. They very gently transferred that part to a sized wall that greets people as they enter the new passageway into the sanctuary. After a specially made custom, cherry wood door was installed, the upper portion of the stained glass window was placed above it.
The new doorway can be reached from McClurg Street by way of a wide, sloped sidewalk with railings. Greeting people after entry is a major portion of the removed window, strikingly positioned to show its beauty. To the right after entry is a slightly sloped walkway into the sanctuary, which is a perfect view of the Portage Street-side windows. To reach the lowest building level - or an upper level - an elevator was installed for those who wish to bypass steps or walkways.
After First Presbyterian Church moved from its original location to South Portage Street, many years ago it was destroyed by fire. That did not discourage the congregation. It was re-built with its three steeples that also have become known for their height and beauty. Unfortunately, when a massive truck came storming "down the hill," it wiped out one of the steeples. The two that survive also were restored during the August project. An updated Christian Education facility also was added in 1962.
In addition to the McClurg Street entrance, which has handicap parking, First Presbyterian also has a parking lot along that street.
For those who ask why it took so long to bring to fruition a project that was on the minds of many for nearly 20 years, the answer is one that others have asked of similar circumstances - money.
Money is tight whenever it's needed by a house of worship. When the committee posed its question to the congregation, all understood that raising $176,000 would be a challenge. Having received pledges of $86,000, First Presbyterian still has $90,000 to go. And, although all members of the church, present and former, have been contacted, there may be non-members who wish to contribute to a Westfield, Chautauqua County, landmark. It can be a cash donation or pledge to be paid in two or three years. The contribution may be dropped off at the First Presbyterian Church office at the corner of Portage and McClurg streets.
Long-time church member Don Eno, who chaired the committee, noted that he is "very happy it's done, and I'm very pleased with the final product. This is a big benefit to this church and, especially, to the community."
The five committee members were Harry Barton, Jim Minton, Gerry Rogers, Don Strobl and Pete Bills, who commented, "I'm so pleased at the way our committee worked so well together and that we accomplished what we did in such a relatively short time."
And, as the congregation came through its new entry Sunday, Jan. 5, smiles matched the new access in to Westfield's First Presbyterian Church.