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Hosting the General Assembly in Louisville will require some rapid remodeling of the Presbyterian Center

A tight timeline is under consideration for preparing 100 Witherspoon Street to host the 2022 assembly — and possibly others

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, is set for renovations ahead of its role hosting the 225th General Assembly in 2022. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation Board had a spirited discussion Friday about plans to reconfigure and remodel the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, ahead of hosting the 225th General Assembly in 2022 — and perhaps assemblies beyond that one as well.

A Corp President Kathy Lueckert laid out an ambitious timeline for the project, which as yet does not have a price tag but will probably cost around $1 million, she said, depending on the extent of the work, which is still being decided.

In December, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) decided the next assembly will include both in-person committee meetings and online plenaries, with the Presbyterian Center at 100 Witherspoon Street hosting the assembly. Hosting will require some remodeling to create a production studio, meeting rooms to accommodate committees and staff, technology updates, hospitality space and gender-neutral bathrooms.

PC(USA) national staff who have been working at home for nearly a year have been polled about their preference for continuing to work from home even after it’s been deemed safe for them to return to the Presbyterian Center. It’s unclear at this time how many employees will end up working exclusively from home or at the Center or some combination of the two.

Here’s the proposed timeline Lueckert announced to the board:

March — Engage an architect

April — The A Corp Board, COGA and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board decides where the project funding comes from

May — Construction bids are sought

June — Construction bid is awarded

July-August — First phase of third-floor office relocation

August-September — Construction begins

Fall — With the conclusion of the PMA’s Vision Implementation Plan process, work begins on designing the second phase of office relocations and reconfigurations

January-March 2022 — Phase 2 relocations

March — Construction completed

April-May — Equipment and furnishings installed. The new space, including the production studio, is field tested.

June-July — 225th General Assembly.

“This will disrupt our staff as we have to move around to accommodate construction,” Lueckert said, adding that a space designer retained to advise on the project “has cool ideas about combining our spaces. It’s an opportunity to make the inside of the building more functional.”

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), told the board that electronic meeting platforms such as Zoom “are going to be the way of the world,” a world that isn’t just changing, but has changed, he said.

One important question moving forward, Nelson said, is, “How are we adjusting to the work of the General Assembly? What work really needs to be done?”

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), spoke last summer during a vigil for justice for Breonna Taylor. (Photo by Rich Copley)

“This is not change for change’s sake,” Nelson said. “It’s trying to be the church in the 21st century.” He said he’s had inquiries from church and other organizations about the PC(USA)’s experience with an online-only General Assembly in 2020.

Nelson also discussed the history of the Presbyterian Center, which was a gift to the denomination but was only usable following extensive renovation.

“In what ways have we honored the gift that was given?” Nelson asked. The city of Louisville “is hurting right now,” following last year’s police killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, and the protests that followed over racial inequity and police practices.

“Our commitment to the city has not been totally what it could have been,” Nelson said. “Internally we need to understand what is our community commitment here … This is not just about a building or a General Assembly. It’s about reconfiguring something that allows us to be seriously, seriously relevant to the ongoing work we are doing.”

“The deepest question for me is purpose,” Nelson said, “how we can have purpose and viability, not just for ourselves but others as well.”

Lueckert told the board that the Church had received several bequests near the end of 2020, including one for brick-and-mortar projects. Further conversations will be required to determine which PC(USA) entities pay for portions of the work, she said.

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