People & Places

St. Andrew Presbyterian Church members eager to move into new, expanded church in I.C.

Workers install motorized sun shades in the youth room at the new St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. The room will be for the church’s junior high school youth group BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ) and the high school youth group ETC (Eternally Trusting Christ). (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Workers install motorized sun shades in the youth room at the new St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. The room will be for the church’s junior high school youth group BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ) and the high school youth group ETC (Eternally Trusting Christ). (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Nearly 20 years after first discussing the need for additional space, the congregation and staff at Iowa City’s St. Andrew Presbyterian Church plan to be in their new home for the holidays.

“We’re definitely eager to be in the new building,” said the Rev. Kyle Otterbein, associate pastor at St. Andrew.

St. Andrew’s new home — a nearly 60,000-square-foot building just off of Camp Cardinal Boulevard in Iowa City — has more than twice the area of its former home in University Heights, and will be outfitted to address modern technological and other needs. Otterbein hopes to have the first service in the new building on Dec. 17.

Otterbein came to Iowa City in 1999 and the congregation at St. Andrew — then located at the corner of Melrose Avenue and Grand Avenue in University Heights — had already started talking about the building’s future. The congregation was growing, shared spaces were becoming congested and late-comers to morning services often struggled to find a place to sit.

“The old church on Melrose was often full, and when I sat in the choir on Sunday mornings I often noticed that the last people in had a difficult time figuring out where to sit,” said Becka Simpson, 62, of Iowa City, whose been a member of St. Andrew for 25 years. “The building was well-used during the week, and there were often times when activities were in conflict for space. Space was a juggle.”

Due to its location — the University of Iowa Club on the north, and Grand Avenue to the south — the building was landlocked, there was no room for expansion.

The discussion continued for several years.

“We started to look at various ways we could grow in place, with early designs looking for growth at our existing site,” Otterbein said. “When we really took a look at those plans, we had to ask if it would really meet all of our needs. We realized it didn’t.”

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Otterbein said church leaders looked at the possibility of creating satellite locations or starting a new church with some existing congregants.

“We also started to explore the possibility of a new location,” he said.

Then in 2007, it all seemed to start falling into place.

“A developer came in and made an offer for the land, and then in early in 2008 we learned the parcel on Camp Cardinal was available,” Otterbein said. “That same year, our longtime senior pastor of 22 years decided to retire. There was lots of transition happening, and that’s been our mode ever since.”

That year also was the 50th anniversary of St. Andrew Presbyterian — a marker that created another focus in expansion dialogue.

“We were asking ourselves questions about what we wanted our new church to be,” Otterbein said. “Then we started asking what the church was going to need 50 years from now. Church leadership made a pretty bold decision, looking 50 years down the road, and decided to move forward on the new building.”

Construction crews broke ground on the projected $16.8 million project in spring 2016.

For church staff, the new building represents more than just additional space.

“We’ve changed the way we do ministry here, and our building will now accommodate that,” said Heather Wooden, director of children’s and family ministries. “We do multi-generational ministries, where we get different members from a family together. This building will give us the space we need to really do that.”

Leaders also want the church to be able to bring back “church night,” a tradition seemingly lost to busier generations.

“We want to have ministries that are happening throughout the week, so it’s not always just on Sundays,” said Matthew Penning, director of music ministries. “We want to have a place where people can feel comfortable using it at all times of the week, and where there’s always an open space.”

Randy Hausler, director of youth ministries, said the building’s new multi-purpose area — which includes a gymnasium — will make church more welcoming to kids.

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“Now we’ll have a large gathering and play space where a ball can be thrown without fear of breaking something, where kids can be kids,” Hausler said. “It’s going to be a great place where kids can come and hang out, but also allow us to expand parts of our ministry. We’ve been limited in how much we could do, but this new space will allow us to do so much more.”

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