Historic Provo church raising funds for restoration project

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The Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ hopes to raise $2 million for a restoration project to update and repair its buildings to serve as community gathering places. (Sydnee Gonzalez)

Over 130 years of time and weather damage have made it necessary to restore and repair Provo’s Community Congregational United Church of Christ’s buildings in order for the church to continue to serve the community.

The church began fundraising at the beginning of February for contributions to make the much-needed repairs possible. Their goal is to raise $2 million during a 12-month period.

The renovation process began with the church’s Reverend Keith Cupples. After years of retirement as a Methodist pastor, Cupples was asked to lead the United Church of Christ here in Provo. He took the position but requested not to receive any salary or pension for his work.

Cupples said “the light of God came in” to his bedroom on Easter 2020 and he experienced a vision from God instructing him to “renovate the church.”

The Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ started Provo’s first kindergarten and has been serving the community in that way ever since. The building also provides a gathering space for other community services such as 12-step groups, community choirs, cub and scout troops, health screenings, and seminars.

“As far as concerts and things like that, we have been having more of those but it has become apparent that the size and space that we are working with has been a challenge to host larger events,” said Dave Lewis, the church’s building liaison, public affairs director, organist and music director. “We believe we can host large events for the community that are uplifting and powerful.”

The church buildings have not had any repairs other than minor cosmetic updates since they were built. The repairs and renovations are essential to keep these historic buildings standing.

“This community has a chance to share love and connection with a smaller group that could use help and cannot do this on their own,” said Issac Paxman, Provo’s Deputy Mayor who has volunteered his own time to serve the cause.

The church has a three-phase plan for the updates. The first phase involves the most critical updates such as water-proofing the buildings, replacing the 1923 tile roof and removing asbestos. In phase two they will make repairs to electrical and lighting issues along with plumbing. Phase three includes adding a pipe organ and expanding the chancel to accommodate larger groups.

When the Provo Tabernacle burned down, the city lost a community gathering place. Cupples said part of the vision for the renovations is to provide a place for community recitals, concerts and anything else uplifting and beneficial to the community. It will also provide a local pipe organ that was lost with the tabernacle.

“As we renovate this building, it is more than a building. It’s a bookend to the temple which is two and a half blocks south of us,” Cupples said. “In times of stress and peril, they become the symbols of how we are going to get through.”

About $70,000 have been contributed to the renovation so far. Community members can help through both financial donations and volunteering.

“For us here in Provo, this is a wonderful opportunity, we need volunteers ultimately to come lend a physical hand, we need lots of people to come donate funds,” Paxman said.

Contributions can be made on the project’s website at keepingthefaithprovo.org. There are also Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages with updates, uplifting messages and building history.

“We are going to unify the churches of Provo more so than they have been unified before. What that literally means is we are going to move from competing to come join the Kingdom of God,” Cupples said.


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