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Christ Presbyterian Church Aims to Embrace City, Youth with New Building

Story contributed by Jared Redding
UM Journalism Student

Les Newsom, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church expects the church to open the doors of its new home on Sisk Ave in July 2020.

The process of raising funds for and designing the new building, which is located in Oxford Commons, has been seven years in the making. The new building, which has a 702-seat capacity, cost $8.5 million and they’re looking to make the most of their investment.

Construction on Christ Presbyterian continues. Photo by Jared Redding.

“We want to be a church that’s a blessing to the city,” Newsom said. “We want to serve the poor and provide aid to the retirement community. We want to be part of the conversation. How are we helping? How are we serving? Our hope is to be participate with the city and to help them. If we were to have a bomb drop on us, we’d want them to mourn us because we took care of them, because we proclaimed the gospel to them.”

Some of the building’s design is admittedly similar to that of another church in Madison, Mississippi called Highlands Presbyterian Church. Through each phase of development, problems were solved, although not easy at times.

“We were blessed early on in the process with a pretty clear direction that developed from lots of feedback from the congregation during our charrette. Fitting our needs and wants into what we could afford was a much harder puzzle to solve,” design committee member Whitney Reese said.

It was also a chance to fix an issue that has remained consistent for the latter half of the past decade.

“We’ve experienced 5 percent growth over the last 10 years, except for the last three or four years, then it became a 10 percent growth. The growth of Oxford has contributed to that too. We’ve had to turn people away because we simply didn’t have enough chairs… We have 540 members total, but on any given Sunday we would have like 650-700 in the first or second service. Where does all that go? They come in for the weekend cause of baseball, football, initiation,” Newsom said.

The new sanctuary will be equipped with updated and additional technology. Some of these things include projector screens on both ends of the sanctuary stage and Smart TV screens in attempt to digitalize communications, according to Reese.

There will also be an open area available for all who enter the church, in attempt to live up to their welcoming moniker. That includes active attendees of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) on the Ole Miss campus. CPC draws a significant number of Ole Miss students on any given Sunday, most of which attend RUF as well.

“It’s part of their mission statement. They want to be campus-aware church. A lot of families at Christ Pres have kids who are involved with RUF or they are associated with it in general,” RUF leader Brian Sorgenfrei said.

Another distinct educational feature is a two-story wing that houses Sunday School classes. At one point, the two story plan seemed out of the picture. Generosity fixed that.

“Initially we planned to leave the second floor of the education wing unfinished because we couldn’t afford it. Then we realized that we can’t really have a church without being able to take care of our children. That’s a million dollar decision. Then the church began to give in that direction, so now we can afford it. If you saw that first picture and saw our plans, it’s amazingly consistent,” Newsom said.

“I think the wisdom of our leadership has made sure we don’t hurry this process, that we’re taking it slow enough to let our growth to catch up with what we need financially.”

Reese said that despite the long process, leadership behind the project has remained consistent throughout.

“There have been multiple times over this process where we have pulled out the ‘top 10’ list the congregation created during our [planning workshops] and used it to realign ourselves,” Reese said.

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