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Church on the move

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River Falls,Wisconsin 54022
Hudson Star Observer
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Church on the move
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The First Presbyterian congregation has moved to higher ground.

Two Sundays ago, members began their worship service in the 134-year-old, Gothic-like sanctuary at the corner of Third and Orange streets. They sang hymns, listened to the Rev. David Liddle's sermon titled "A Moveable Feast" and participated in a short liturgy to formally leave the building.


Church members then got in their cars and traveled in a caravan led by a city police car up the hill to their new building at 1901 Vine St. When some 200 of them had gathered at the main entrance, Pastor Liddle read a passage of Scripture, Tom Aitchison rang the old bell mounted above the entrance and they went inside to receive Communion.

The 10,945-square-foot building represents a new start for the church that formed 150 years ago to the day from Dec. 22, 2005, the date the congregation received official permission to occupy the facility.

In many ways, the new church is a stark contrast to the old and rather dark brick cathedral-like structure it replaces. It's white, flooded with natural light and all on one level.

"I heard someone say that it looks like a Presbyterian church," said Pastor Liddle. "They were grateful that we built a building that looked like a church."

Aitchison, chairman of the congregation's Building Work Group, said the committee thought more about functionality than form at the start of the planning process four years ago.

"One of the things we really wanted was more narthex space," he said. "In the other churches, you go down the steps (from the sanctuary) and you either go right out the door or you go downstairs (to the basement). There's no in-between. So this was definitely something we wanted - more gathering space."

Project designer Brian Hinz of Elliot Architects said the 22- by 44-foot hall is the core from which everything else in the church grows.

To the south is a 200-seat sanctuary, lit by panels of windows at the front corners as well as natural light from the cupola windows high above.

The sanctuary is 72 feet wide and 40 feet deep, making for an intimate horizontal seating arrangement as opposed to the many rows of short pews in the old building.

The new church has just seven rows of cushioned pew/chairs that were built by Northland Church Furniture of Luck.

"Their worshipping is a little bit different now. They're much closer to the chancel," Hinz said. "There's no hiding. No nodding off."

Aitchison said he heard a fellow church member say that if you want to hide, you find a big guy to sit behind.

Not everything in the church is new.

The pipe organ installed in the old church in 1903 was disassembled and moved to the new building. A special room was constructed behind the chancel to hold the blower and the pipes mounted above it.

The 1874 bell (weighing 801 pounds) occupies a new nook above the main entrance. The narthex furnishings include a pew, cushioned chairs and an antique baptismal font from the old church.

At the rear of the sanctuary on the west side is a new Fireside Room, replacing the comfortable fireplace room left behind at the old church. On the east side of the narthex behind the sanctuary is a spacious library, furnished with a large meeting table in addition to the bookcases.

Glass walls, tilted at a slight angle to improve the acoustics, are all that separate the Fireside Room and the library from the sanctuary.

Other highlights of the building include:

* A fellowship hall with plentiful exterior windows on three sides;

* A commercial grade kitchen;

* A youth room with a restroom equipped with a shower for overnight visitors;

* A pint-size toilet in the nursery;

* A unisex restroom for people needing assistance;

* Many energy-efficient features, including quality windows, R-60 insulated ceilings, R-38 insulated walls, light fixtures that dim and shut off by themselves, a tankless water heater and low-resistance electrical wiring.

"It's a very modern, efficient building," Aitchison said. "We didn't want to sacrifice quality just to gain square footage."

The total price of the facility was $2.2 million.

It sits on eight acres of property that was donated by the late Lester Jacobson.

Pastor Liddle said the hope is that the new building will help the church to grow and be of service to the community.

"We feel that being situated in this area of town with greater visibility will help that," he said.

Open house planned

The community is invited to an open house at the new First Presbyterian Church, 1901 Vine St., that will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29. The open house will follow the 10 a.m. worship service, which the public also is invited to attend.

Randy Hanson can be reached at

Randy Hanson
Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
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