Date: May 7, 2017
“SAY IT AGAIN”
SCRIPTURE: PSALM 23; JOHN 10: 1
GRACE COVENANT PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, ASHEVILLE, NC
May 7, 2017
The Rev. Dr. Marcia Mount Shoop, Pastor
Churches don’t build themselves. They are born out of aspiration, out of vision, and
out of a commitment that moves people to believe in something they can’t yet see.
Such commitment to build something new is not for the faint of heart
, nor is it for
he tepid of Spirit. I venture to say no church ever began with a vision that included
its death, or even its resurrection into something unforeseen or new.
churches that survive, and certainly churches that thrive, are churches
that have the
rage to change
stitched through their story.
They are churches that know how to
trust the mysteries of resurrection.
In 1932 Richard Mellon laid the cornerstone for East Liberty
Presbyterian Church in
Pittsburgh PA, a
town full of cathedral Presbyterian
He and his wife
wanted to build
a new Church of cathedral proportions be erected in memory of
their parents, to serve as a monument to Presbyterianism in Western Pennsylvania,
and to rank among
the great Churches of the world” on the site wher
e the Church
had been incorporated since 1864.
Mr. Mellon and his wife hired architect Ralph Adams Cram, a Boston architect whose
famous and stunning work includes the chapel at Princeton. Mr. Cram was told by
the Mellons that he had “absolute freedom t
o build the finest and most beautiful
church to the glory of God he could create.”
It would end up costing $4 million
dollars to build
the equivalent of $66 million of today’s dollars.
What would motivate such a lofty endeavor? Many refer to the cathed
ral that is East
Liberty Presbyterian Church as Mellon’s fire escape. He was a man known for his
incredible wealth and the hard bargains that he used to get there.
He was not known
as a friend to working people in the way he did business.
Was this great
his penance or was it some more lofty vision?
In 1932 Mr. Mellon laid the cornerstone for the goth
ic cathedral that would take
over three years to build. He died suddenly in 1933, two years before its completion.
Both he and his wife are entombe
d in the cathedral.
cathedral was dedicated in 1935
and Cram, the architect, said, “This is my
masterpiece. This church has been the most profound spiritual experience of my
The church today is a remarkable testament to God’s creativity and t
transformative power of the Spirit. The church responded to the
neighborhood and became
“the cathedral of hope
,” a place that ministers
homeless, those who were searching,
those who live in the disadvantages
created by raci
sm and poverty,
and those who had been cast out of the church in
other settings. East Liberty is a model for cross
cultural beloved community
leader in LGBTQ
ministries, a leader in space for spiritual practice, a leader for not
being afraid to follow Go
d’s voice into an unknown future.
“As a diverse community of believers, we show God’s unconditional love by
providing refuge for spiritual growth, ardently pursuing justice, and extending
Christ’s radical hospitality to all.”
Whatever the impetus that
gave birth to that magnificent architectural achievement,
it’s survival comes i
ts capacity to be more than
meets the eye
it’s heart is
architecture, but the sacred space that it has become for those who are exiled, those
who are searching for home
ar from a grand plan to save one man from eternal punishment, that church has
an icon of resurrection right here on planet earth.
64 years ago some Presbyterians decided this growing side of Asheville needed
a church. And so, they came
together in hope and in faith and began to
plan for Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church.
No $66 million in seed money for a gothic cathedral obviously. But Grace
venant’s earliest beginnings were
rich in people who believed in what it means
and they were willing to invest
their lives in forming a courageous
family of faith.
As some of you may remember and others may be interested to know:
Grace Covenant attracted some of its first new members because of our ample
parking spaces in comparison to First Presbyterian.
Not exactly a stirring story of evangelism, but we
we can to build the
It’s safe to say o
ur current parking situation isn’t what is drawing people in, but we
should certainly take a moment to give thanks
for how our parking lot
the seeds of our
God works in mysterious ways!
From the very beginning Grace Covena
nt was a community that understands what it
means to build, rebuild, and respond.
And Grace Covenant has been engaged in the world with that same capacity for
change and responsiveness