From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 12:57:38


                          by Alexa Smith 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Though two Presbyterian churches in Los Angeles were razed 
at the city's expense after 1994's winter earthquake, two other PC(USA) 
congregations are still debating what to do with their sagging sanctuaries. 
     Estimated repairs easily run over $1 million -- and demolition and 
rebuilding would cost even more for both the St. James Presbyterian Church 
in Tarzana and Faith United Presbyterian Church in northeast Los Angeles. 
     Both congregations have to make decisions soon -- and pay for the 
outcome without city assistance. Though both sanctuaries were extensively 
damaged, neither was condemned. 
     The City of Los Angeles has already cited Faith United for 
noncompliance with an order to either tear down or repair its damaged 
building, though the congregation intends to appeal for an extension of its 
deadline at a city hearing soon.  St. James is wrestling with whether its 
members will ever feel safe in its present sanctuary again -- and is 
planning three days of prayer in early May to discern the congregation's 
     "There just hasn't been the will to tear it down," said the Rev. Jim 
Stochl, stated supply pastor of the small Faith United congregation, which 
is housed in a 70-year-old building listed as a potential historic landmark 
in a Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles.  The congregation has both 
English and Spanish language worship services. 
     "The roof looks like a lid on a shoebox that just pulled away," said 
Stochl, who says the repair estimate for such heavy damage runs about $2 
million.  Demolition is estimated at $300,000, with $100,000 going for 
refilling the empty foundation with soil.  San Gabriel Presbytery has 
already secured a $90,000 grant for Faith United from Presbyterian World 
     Pews and organ pipes could be salvaged and the session is considering 
selling off the brick facade on the sanctuary itself, Stochl said.  Worship 
is now held in the church's library but will be moved to an adjacent 
multipurpose building in early May. 
     The Rev. Ken Baker of Tarzana tells a similar story. 
     "The price tag on repair goes up every month.  Now it's at $1 million 
 ... and I can't reassure people it won't go up from there," he said, adding 
that more damage to the shaken building appears the longer it sits.  The 
session figures it will cost at least $2 million to duplicate the present 
1,000-seat sanctuary, though a smaller multipurpose building may cost less. 
"Building committee members really don't see a way to effectively manage 
that kind of debt," he said. 
     The St. James congregation now worships in its fellowship hall or in a 
tent lent by Pittsburgh Presbytery. 
     Major decisions like this one are draining, according to Baker, when 
people's energy and stamina are tied up in crises elsewhere too.  "We still 
have people whose houses aren't fixed -- aren't even started," he said, 
noting the church at least qualifies for about $400,000 in loans from the 
General Assembly and the Small Business Administration combined. 
     St. James is just one of many churches in San Fernando Presbytery 
damaged in the earthquake. The Rev. John Moody of the now demolished North 
Hollywood church, says many families have had to cope with multiple losses: 
lost jobs because some companies folded rather than foot the bill to repair 
damaged operations, lost dreams because homes were wrecked and people 
     "If all we had to deal with was a broken building, it might be a 
different ball game," Moody said, whose congregation now worships in a 
small chapel on its campus.  "But we weren't given that opportunity." 
     Former earthquake relief coordinator the Rev. Jane Newstead of San 
Fernando Presbytery concurs. "People here have some semblance of normality 
in their lives again -- but that includes cracked walls in their homes and 
in their church school rooms.  It includes a lot of vacant lots, gutted 
buildings and trash piled on streets. 
     "Evidence of the earthquake is everywhere," she said, adding that 
there are predictions for more quakes within the next 20 years. 
     Acquiring earthquake insurance with those odds, Newstead said, is not 
really a possibility for churches or for many homeowners, since deductibles 
are rapidly going up. 
     In the meantime, the Korean-American congregation of the Good 
Samaritan Presbyterian Church is nested within a Hispanic church in 
Glendale, which is outside the bounds of Pacific Presbytery, while it looks 
for a place to rent within the presbytery itself.  The city ordered its 
former sanctuary demolished months ago. 
     "It will not be easy for the time being," says Kyung Kwak, the wife of 
the pastor, the Rev. Gun Yong Kwak, of the 50-member congregation.  She 
says buying another building is only a long-term strategy because the 
church has no real savings. 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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