After 130 years standing, Provo church sets out to renovate historic buildings with help of other faiths

Community Cornerstone Restoration Project

After 130 years standing, Provo church sets out to renovate historic buildings with help of other faiths

By Lauren Bennett, KSL.com | Posted - Feb. 20, 2021 at 12:02 p.m.



PROVO — It was about one year ago when Minister Keith Cupples experienced what he described as a vision from God telling him to return to Utah and renovate the Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ.

So, Cupples left Colorado and came to the Beehive State where he began work to fulfill the spiritual revelation he had received. He is now the pulpit supply pastor for the Provo congregation.

"We have now, somewhere in the vicinity of 15 to 30 persons who are offering their expertise in order to assist us to create this vision that God has laid upon our hearts," he told KSL.com.

The goal is to raise anywhere from $300,000 up to $2 million over the next year to restore the building and fix the critical and necessary issues with the buildings of the church, which sits at 175 N. University Avenue, near the Provo City Center Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Restoring the historic landmark to the area will serve downtown Provo and show people it's a place of faith, Cupples said.

"They see the physical presence of the power of grace and mercy and forgiveness and compassion they see it in our building. And they see it in the temple that is located just south of us, and it offers the message of hope; that's what this is all about," he said.

One building on the property needs its nearly 100-year-old tile roof replaced and the other needs its asbestos roof replaced as well. In the end, though, it isn't about the building — it's about community.

"We can open our facility to community events, as we have for the last 130 years, and provide the best opportunity for ministry and service through the use of our facility," Cupples explained. "God said, 'You renovate and I'll bring the people.'"

The building has hosted its fair share of events over the years, including the Christmas tradition of Carols by Candlelight, an annual performance of the story of Jesus Christ's birth. For Provo's deputy mayor, Issac Paxman, the church hits especially close to home considering his grandparents founded the annual tradition.

"They found a good home at this facility and it had been embraced by it," he said. "And so that brought me to the facility to go participate in those events and it was neat to see the community gathering place that it was."

Although Paxman's grandparents were faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they worked with the Provo United Church of Christ to pull the beloved event off every year.

Paxman himself is a practicing member of Utah's dominant faith as well and deeply values the interfaith community Provo has fostered over the years.

Seeing the support from Provo's community shows Dave Lewis, building liaison for the Provo church, how much the area cares about faith.

"Well, to me it just reaffirms that the vision is happening, and the means for it are going to take place; we just have to be paying attention, and whatever ways that is supposed to happen, it will happen," he said.

Paxman knows his grandparents would be thrilled to see the restoration efforts today.

"They were very much that type of people who are into bridging with those of different backgrounds and faiths and not being isolated but instead, forming bridging connections wherever they could," he said.

The project itself will provide solid structural changes that will likely last many years to come, he added. Paxman is serving as the project's fundraising chair, isn't acting in his official capacity with the city but instead as a personal volunteer.

"I'm focused on hopefully helping keep those who desire to to be a part of this effort and, and help preserve this great piece of Provo," he said.

Cupples has faith the project will work out just the way it's intended, as part of God's divine plan.

"We rest solely and strongly in the strong belief that God will deliver what God is saying," he said. "We don't have any idea what's going to happen except we know that by being faithful, and obedient, that the miracle will happen. And we'll give thanks and praise for that miracle, whatever it looks like."

The fundraising campaign officially launches on Sunday at the 11 a.m. service which will be broadcast on the church's Facebook page. However, the church has been accepting donations since the beginning of the year ahead of its 130-year anniversary on Feb. 5, and has since raised about $70,000, according to Lewis.

Cupples hopes more people will offer their support either through prayer or donation in the coming months.

"We're simply asking them to pray and say, 'Lord, what do you want me to do?" he said.

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