Kris Coates, our landscape designer
Appreciating Our Campus Through Capital Improvements
Fall Cleanup Days
Last spring, as we frantically worked to ready the church campus for the March Presbytery meeting, the workers who helped to clean and polish suggested that we should hold similar events twice every year to keep the church looking its best at all times. Now we’re going to have another good reason to hold a fall campus cleanup; in two words: BRICK DUST.
Since the painters have finished their work on the exterior siding, it’s time for the next step of the Capital Improvements Project – redoing the central courtyard. And a big part of that project is the demolition of the fountain and the brick Celtic cross, to prepare the space for the installation of our memorial bricks. The bricks in the existing cross are mortared in place, so the demolition is going to take a while and be pretty dusty. (We may need to post some “Pardon Our Mess” signs while the demo is taking place.) Unfortunately, the doors to the church are not air-tight, so we’re going to have at least some of that dust seeping in through the cracks. That means we’ll need to tidy up – preferably before the holiday season gets underway.
We’ve learned from the Presbytery experience, though. Instead of exhausting workers with one long cleanup day, we’re going to spread the project over two mornings – tentatively 9:00 am to noon on Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25. (We will push back the date if demo isn’t done yet.) We are also going to hire professional window washers, so no one from the congregation will have to risk life and limb on a ladder.
Most of the remaining work will be dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning carpets. Volunteers are welcome to come on either day or both. As usual, lunch will be provided for our helpers, and we promise it will be something special. We hope you can join us!
(And about those bricks...have you purchased your memorial brick(s) yet? If not, be sure to place your order with Norma now!)
Demolition has already started in the Memorial Garden. Eventually the Sago Palms will be moved to one of the beds by the gates to the courtyard, the ficus trees will be supplanted by smaller flowering trees, and the uneven pavers will be replaced with level hardscape. A new, smaller fountain will be added to this area and the wooden benches traded for seating that won’t weather as badly. The Memorial Garden will be an even lovelier spot for remembrance and reflection after the changes are completed.
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 side of the building has been removed.
- An energy audit has been completed and the remaining inefficient light fixtures identified for future replacement.
Phase I of the future enhancements will start at the end of this month and include:
- Exterior painting.
- Additional plant removal and trimming, plus replanting on the north side.
- Replacement of all toilets with taller, more efficient models.
- Replacement of existing bathroom light switches with easier-to-use versions.
Phase II, 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 reconfiguring the Fireside Room and posting maps of the campus. [Update: After the AI session where we agreed that a redo of the Fireside Room was in order, two donors stepped forward to finance the project. The proposed new floor plan and decorating scheme will be on view in Swain Hall in the near future.]
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.