Kris Coates, our landscape designer
Appreciating Our Campus Through Capital Improvements
Giving Thanks in a New Way
Paint, plants, irrigation, new brickwork – our love for God’s house is becoming visible!
If you’ve been here for the last month or so, you’ve seen a lot of activity in the courtyard and Memorial Garden. If you haven’t been here, you’re in for a treat when you arrive!
During October, our landscape designer, Kris Coates, worked with donors who designated their gifts for landscaping to finalize the plan for the interior areas of the church grounds. Most of the plants were then purchased at the Desert Botanical Garden’s plant sale or from the Mountain States Wholesale Nursery. Planting and irrigation system changes followed. When the new plants are established, they will require much less water and maintenance than those they replaced while providing more color, fragrance, and textural interest.
While the plants were going in, the fountain and the bricks from the Celtic cross were coming out. Our bricklaying crew carefully removed the old bricks without damaging the concrete on which they were set. The next step is to lay the new pavement, starting with concrete around the perimeter and then the memorial bricks.
Which brings us to an important question: have you purchased your memorial brick(s) yet? If not, this November is a great time to give thanks for your blessings with more than just another turkey dinner.
We’ve been referring to “memorial bricks,” but that doesn’t mean you can only buy them to remember a loved one who has died. You can also have your bricks engraved to honor a living friend or mentor, or to celebrate your marriage, your children, or your grandchildren. Short quotations, favorite Bible verses, good wishes or thanks – Striking Stone can engrave them all. Just keep your message to three lines per brick with a maximum of 15 characters (including spaces) per line.
Each brick, in addition to serving as a lasting tribute to someone or something special, will help to defray the costs of keeping the church in good repair and to establish a maintenance fund for the future. Honor your loved ones and God’s house at the same time!
Call or stop by the church office to place your order, and help us fill the courtyard cross with beautiful memories.
Fireside Room Update
During the Appreciating our Campus summit this summer, a suggestion that the Fireside Room be updated was greeted with general applause, and changes to make it more comfortable and versatile are underway. So far the fireplace “bumpout” has been painted and our copy of Salvador Dali’s Crucifixion hung over the fireplace itself. Existing furniture has also been arranged in front of the fireplace in a conversational grouping.
The next big change: adding groups of small tables and chairs that can be used for bridge, meetings, and social events. The tables will be purchased new; the chairs will be moved from Annex 3 and reupholstered to increase their comfort. The beautiful large table already in place, donated by Evelyn Haas in memory of her husband, will anchor one end of the room and function as a serving or display area.
We are fortunate that the church already owned the artwork, brass accent pieces, and most of the furniture used in this transformation. Designated donations have enabled us to add the new tables, reupholster the chairs (fabric sample, right), and buy attractive accent greenery to finish everything off.
We hope these changes will trigger increased use of the room for small group meetings of all kinds. The work will not be 100% done until the interior painting is completed this spring, but the upholstery work should be finished and the room ready for use well before that!
Caring for God’s House
Saturday, July 12, over 40 people came together in Swain Hall to celebrate the ways in which our building and grounds support our mission as the First Presbyterian Church of Sun City.
The day opened with a clip from an Adam Hamilton DVD about the importance of an appealing and well-kept premises in attracting and maintaining members, followed by small group interviews on how our own church property has served us as individuals and as a community of faith.
Out of the stories we told each other, these appreciative themes emerged:
- The flexible spaces in our campus and the beautiful designs of our Sanctuary, Chapel, and stained glass fulfill the church’s physical needs and also contribute to our spiritual growth.
- The courtyard and Memorial Garden are the heart of the campus, central to its nurturing functions.
- Our church is not just a building; it’s God’s house and as such deserves to be maintained with love and respect.
When asked what we want more of, we requested an updated Fireside Room, better internal signage (where, for instance, is the Westminster Room?), state-of-the-art IT and communications, and landscaping that is less expensive to maintain. Suggestions for additional activities at the campus included social occasions utilizing the Fireside Room and courtyard; concerts in the Sanctuary; vacation bible school; and renting the premises for weddings and similar functions.
Lunch followed presentations on the capital improvements already in the works; the landscaping changes proposed by the Certified Desert Landscaper who is working with us; and the plans to replace the brick in the courtyard’s Celtic cross (heavily damaged by splashing from the fountain). Participants then voted on their preferred paint colors for the wood and metal portions of the church’s exterior and for the Sanctuary and adjoining interior spaces. You can find the details below.
We are truly blessed by our church’s wonderful spaces and amazing people. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this AI session; if you couldn’t be there, be sure to keep reading!
In the Works
In the DVD clip that started our July 12 AI summit, Adam Hamilton said he had given his deacons digital cameras to capture the problem areas around their church campus. Bill Wentling and our Building Committee have also checked out our building and grounds. As a result of their efforts, these projects have already been successfully completed:
- A new fire/intrusion alarm system has replaced the old intrusion-only alarm, for a smaller monthly maintenance fee.
- Problem door locks have been repaired or replaced.
- Old A/C wiring and hard-to-use thermostats were replaced.
- Gabe Conwell has refinished the wooden exterior doors in the courtyard.
- The damaged sunscreens on the Agua Fria room were replaced.
- The overgrown landscaping on the north and east sides of the building and in the courtyard and Memorial Garden has been removed, and replanting has started.
- An energy audit has been completed and the remaining inefficient light fixtures identified for future replacement.
- Exterior painting of wood and metal surfaces has been completed.
- Existing bathroom light switches have been replaced with motion-detector versions.
- Replacement of all toilets with taller, more efficient models is ongoing.
Phase II of the improvements, which will probably take place next spring, will comprise interior painting (the Sanctuary, Fireside Room, Narthex, choir room, library, and adjoining spaces) and additional landscaping. And as we can, we’ll tackle the items identified on July 12, such as posting maps of the campus.
Our beautiful church campus shelters us, inspires us during worship, supports our mission and fellowship activities, and attracts new members to sustain the life of the congregation. These changes will ensure that God’s house will continue to serve our ministry for many years to come. If you would like to make a contribution toward these expenses, please fill out this form and drop it off at or send it to the church office.
Appreciating the Desert
When Del Webb built the first phase of Sun City, his target market was retirees from the upper Midwest, and he assumed they would want to buy houses that looked like transplanted bungalows from Minnesota or Wisconsin, complete with grass lawns and familiar shrubs.
Our church, too, was originally landscaped with grass that wasn’t removed until 1988. That year the congregation embraced the concept of xeriscaping. Merriam-Webster defines xeriscape as “a landscaping method developed especially for arid and semiarid climates that utilizes water-conserving techniques (as the use of drought-tolerant plants, mulch, and efficient irrigation),” and says the first known use of the word (if not the principle) was in 1985. We were pioneers in that regard, appreciating our desert 26 years ago.
However, once the desert flora was in place, we started treating it like the plants we were used to in colder climates – trimming bushes into hedges and frequently overwatering them. Some of this was necessary because the landscapers had planted many of the items in areas too small for the full-grown plants, too close together, or too close to the walkways. Over the years quite a few of our plantings have become woody, overgrown, and unattractive. It’s time to fix that.
Starting with a donation designated for landscaping, Master Gardener, Certified Arborist, and Certified Desert Landscaper Kris Coates is helping us to:
- Identify and remove the plants that have reached the end of their useful lives.
- “Stump back” salvageable plants that can regrow into more natural and attractive shapes.
- Replant with more eye-catching and appropriate types of foliage that will require less water and less maintenance.
- Train our Building Committee and the landscaper we use in how to care for the new plants.
Once the entire project is complete, we will save thousands of dollars in water and landscape maintenance costs every year, and our campus will be far more beautiful and desert-appropriate.
We are so fortunate that Zane and Martha Porter referred Kris to us; she is committing countless hours of her time and effort to this project free of charge, and with her help we will be able to buy most of the new plants we need at wholesale prices, almost 40% off retail. If you see her around the grounds, be sure to thank her. With her help, we will all be able to appreciate the desert in a whole new way.
Thanks to Royal Oaks
Royal Oaks is in the middle of removing the “islands” from their traffic circles due to fire department requirements, and they have graciously agreed to let us have (for only the cost of transplanting them) quite a few mature yucca plants and two cacti that would otherwise have been destroyed. Look for these new plants on the 103rd side of the campus.