FAQs & Fact Sheet

The Building Vision Team that was appointed by Session was asked to develop a Master Plan to improve our buildings and enhance our ability to serve Christ in our community, to nurture our members’ faith experiences, and to provide for the future generations at First Presbyterian Church.


To what degree is the McMurry Memorial Fund participating?  We would not be able to do a Master Plan of this magnitude without the generosity of Mrs. McMurry who left a large bequest to First Presbyterian Church.  This has been established as the McMurry Memorial Fund and is being administered by the McMurry Oversight Committee and Session.  Both the McMurry Oversight Committee and Session have approved a very generous 4:1 match of funds contributed through our capital campaign for the Master Plan up to a maximum gift of $8 million.  A gift of $10,000 becomes $50,000 in funds for implementing the Master Plan.  This is an incredible way for our gifts to be multiplied.

Why are we doing so much for ourselves?  We often think of improvements to a church building as self-serving.  What we have to remember is that we are ministering to more than 50 different community organizations within our church walls in addition to the variety of programs and services that we have for our own members.  It is estimated that at least 80% of the people who come to our church are not members.  Over 5,000 people who are part of these external ministries benefit from our facility.  You can see how our “building,” along with our members, serve our community well.  Prior to considering the Master Plan renovations, it was determined that deferred maintenance within our current buildings would exceed $5 million.  Therefore, it makes sense to do the renovations in order to achieve better access and flow throughout the buildings in addition to addressing deferred maintenance issues. Without an up-to-date facility we will not be able to carry out our ministries long-term.

Why do we need an outdoor space?  An outdoor space was considered a high priority in the survey that was sent to the congregation in 2013.  It was also frequently discussed with our architects, Johnson Architecture, Inc., during the charrette held to communicate ideas generated by JAI and to gather reactions and feedback from the congregation.  By moving the parlor and bathroom located between the sanctuary and chapel, we will be able to enlarge the current courtyard that is used so often by the Parent’s Day Out program.  Then by adding an additional safe, secure, outdoor space to the north of the fellowship hall we will be able to have a variety of congregational gatherings….receptions, concerts, dinners, children space, young adult functions.  This will be a green space- although it may not have real grass.  This would simply be outdoor space that we can enjoy year-round which is something we currently do not have.  With the downtown residential population continuing to grow, this can be a space that is not only used by our church members, but can be used by other downtown organizations that might want to utilize secure outdoor space for a function.  First Presbyterian Church has been a part of downtown Knoxville since 1792, but we can become an even more inviting place for fellowship and worship with these additions.

How will this affect parking?  During construction we probably will lose some places temporarily – similar to when the roof was being repaired.  The Master Plan creates covered parking for both handicap and others needing assistance.  The stairwell from the State Street Parking Garage on Clinch Avenue aligns perfectly with new covered parking area.  After much consideration the decision was made that the Master Plan would not include a pedestrian walkway from the State Street Parking Garage to the outdoor space.  This would ensure that the outdoor space would be more secure and safer if there was no exterior access from a bridge or even stairs to the grounds outside.

What will happen during construction?  Around one-third of our building will be under construction at all times, and as a result there are 4 different construction phases.  Our architects have worked with how to phase the construction so that we can always use parts of the building.  We will have to flexible, but we will have space to continue all of our current activities and programs.  Johnson Architecture has worked on many projects, such as churches and hospitals, which continue to need their own facilities during construction.  They have experience and know-how, and will provide for our needs during construction.

Fact Sheet 

* The Building Vision Team, appointed by Session, was asked to develop a Master Plan to improve our buildings and enhance our ability to serve Christ in our community, to nurture our members’ faith experiences, and to provide for the future generations at First Presbyterian Church.

* In the fall of 2012, the Building Vision Team, through a bid process, selected Johnson Architecture, Inc. (JAI) to work with First Presbyterian Church on a Master Plan design for our buildings which would address the needs of the congregation and our many programs and ministries.

* A survey of the congregation was conducted through online and paper questionnaires.  Members of the congregation gave their feedback, and the number of responses received by JAI was by far the highest percentage they had received from any church renovation they had been involved with.

* A Charrette was held in the spring of 2013 in Fellowship Hall for all interested parties to view preliminary drawings from the Building Vision Team and JAI.  Members of the congregation were able to give feedback, ask questions and make additional recommendations for consideration during the Master Planning phase.

* The Building Vision Team presented the Master Plan to Session in October 2013 and received approval for a $2 million capital campaign and requested the Building Vision Team to make a request for the remaining funding from the McMurry Memorial Fund.  The McMurry Oversight Committee and Session approved a 4:1 match of contributions received from the Capital Campaign up to a total of $8 million.

* The Master Plan has been created and you can see a fly around view of what the church will look like after construction.  CLICK HERE to see that “fly around.”

* The Master Plan concept drawings are also available for review.  CLICK HERE to see some Concept Drawings.  Or CLICK HERE to see the preliminary Floor Plans.

* Our $2 million Capital Campaign began by our asking for pledge commitments from Elders, Deacons and Capital Campaign Committee members and Building Vision Team members.  We have received strong support from this group of leaders.

* In January, 2014, our Capital Campaign Committee will begin making personal visits to members of our church and community.

* In late winter/early spring, the Capital Campaign Committee will host small group informational meetings to further educate members of the congregation about the Master Plan.  During these meetings, we will seek pledges from members of the congregation.

* Our goal is to receive pledges from all members of the congregation, as well as from many former members and friends of First Presbyterian Church in order to complete this campaign by Easter 2014.

* Our goal is to start building in the fall of 2014.

* Construction will last approximately 18 to 24 months.


  1. Why build now? Our buildings are in desperate need of major repairs and renovations, but paint and new carpet alone will not provide us with a building that will serve our ministries effectively now and in the future.  We have the opportunity to improve our buildings beyond what would be possible using our own resources because of the generosity of one of our members.The McMurry Memorial Fund was created by the sale of property given to First Presbyterian Church by Mrs. Kaptola “K” McMurry.  Her will was very specific about how the funds could be used, and our building was one of the priorities in that will.  The fund is administered by the McMurry Oversight Committee and Session.  Both approved the use of funds to provide a 4:1 match for capital campaign contributions made in support of the Master Plan.  This means that for every $1 contributed to our Capital Campaign, the McMurry Memorial Fund will match that with $4 up to a maximum of $8 million.  By combining our contributions with matching dollars from the McMurry Memorial Fund, we can achieve our goal of competing the $10 million Master Plan.
  2. How many groups use our building regularly?
    Over 50 groups are currently served by our facilities downtown.  These programs touch over 5,000 people on an annual basis.  With a membership of approximately 600 members, we are ministering to thousands of people beyond our own family.  That is amazing.
  3. Will any work be done in the sanctuary during this renovation?
    Current plans do not include major renovations to the sanctuary, however, during construction the plan is to remove the organ to prevent damage to it.  A Music Committee is studying the best option for either refurbishing and reinstalling our current organ or looking for a new instrument.
  4. Will our parking spaces will be affected or reduced?
    Several spaces will be converted to under-cover spaces when the outdoor space is completed, but we will not lose any parking spaces.  Some parking may be inaccessible during construction, but not long term.
  5. What will the project cost and how is it to be financed?
    The Master Plan has a proposed budget of $10 million.  We are planning to finance the construction through the payment of pledges by our members along with the 4:1 match from the McMurry Memorial Fund.  We do not plan to incur any debt on this project.
  6. Does our church currently hold any debt?
    Currently First Presbyterian Church has no debt, and we do not plan to incur any debt as part of this project.  First Presbyterian Church comprises an entire city block, made up of five (5) separate buildings with approximately 68,000 square feet of space.  When the project is complete, the church will have about the same amount of square footage.
  7. How far along is the building plan?
    Johnson Architecture will soon begin the process of developing construction drawings.  This should take until the fall of 2014.  At that time we will seek bids for construction, and following the selection of a general contractor, the construction should take approximately 18 to 24 months.
  8. How may I contribute to the Heritage, Heart and Hope Capital Campaign.
    CLICK HERE to make a one-time donation or to make a three year commitment to the project.  You may also give a memorial or honorariam gift to Heritage, Heart, Hope.
  9. What are the plans for paying our pledges and when does the pay period start?
    You may pay your commitment over a 3-year period in any manner that is convenient for you (weekly, monthly, annually or other).  These installment payments can begin immediately.
  10. If you take away all the ramps, during an emergency how will folks in wheel chairs exit the building?
    The current ramps are not wheelchair accessible because they contain at least one step.  The Master Plan includes maintaining the elevator that accesses all the parking levels and the installation of three (3) new elevators to improve access and flow throughout the church.  During emergencies, elevators are to be used by emergency personnel who will assist those unable to use the stairs.  The Master Plan provides for increased ability to exit the buildings during an emergency.
  11. How can I get involved?
    There are lots of ways that you can get involved depending on your level of interest.  Do you like to write?  You could help with communication bullets in the Turnip Patch Times.  Would you like to pray for the campaign or construction?  We cannot have too many people praying for us and the project.  Contact Mary Stuart Neely if you’d like to be involved in specific prayer needs.  Or just add us to your prayer list. 

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