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Thought to have been saved by a potential deal with Crossings Community Church, the historic First Christian “eggshell” Church at NW 36th and Walker Avenue is at risk again.

Thursday, Crossings Community Church, 14600 N. Portland in far north Oklahoma City, announced in a press release that they would not go further toward purchasing the First Christian Property.

Marty Grubbs, the congregation’s founding and current senior pastor, sent a statement to congregation members and the press pointing to the expense of upgrading the First Christian campus.

“Unfortunately, the overall cost was much higher than we anticipated,” the statement read.

“The total cost of this endeavor would exceed $20 million. It became far more than what our leadership and elders were willing to invest; particularly in light of our 60-year commitment not to incur any long-term debt.”

A spokesperson for the church, Jennifer Ayotte, would not give Free Press any further details than those in the press release.

But, she confirmed that the set of standards they had set for what their ministry plans needed was what determined the dollar figure in their assessment.

Deal raised hope

In the spring, negotiations held by Oklahoma City Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher and Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper yielded a deal that promised to save the basic structures of the unique First Christian Church buildings.

Crossings entered into the agreement with the promise to maintain the architectual integrity of the structures if they went ahead with the purchase after a period of performing due diligence inspections.

Preservationists were relieved that there was a possibility of saving the unique buildings after going through a time of concern about a mystery buyer rumored to be in negotiations with the congregation.

Preservationist’s jewel

Historic preservationists consider the eggshell-shaped sanctuary, education building and bell tower to be unique examples of Mid-century Modern style architecture.

Preservation Oklahoma has it at the top of the Mid-century Modern section of their “most-endangered” list on their website.

View from the sanctuary entrance north along the education building and bell tower. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

Free Press contacted Cayla Lewis, executive director of the organization after the news started to emerge Thursday.

“First Christian Church is a true historic gem in Oklahoma City and deserves to be preserved,” Lewis said.

“The best case scenario in this situation, to prevent endangerment or further threat to the property, would be to find another owner willing to purchase it to save it and not to demolish it, which is what Crossings’ goal seemed to be,” she said.

She confirmed that the organization would continue to push for historic preservation status for the buildings.

Current congregation

The First Christian Church congregation moved into their then-new buildings in December, 1956 from an older property closer to downtown and enjoyed prominence as one of the largest and most active churches in the city. But, the congregation has continued to dwindle over recent decades.

According to Stonecipher, the church membership is only “about 40 members” and is looking to use the money from sale of the property to relocate to a more manageable location for their current ministry.

In the July 2 Oklahoma City Council metting, Stonecipher used the congregation’s situation as a key point in his argument for a resolution to make the Oklahoma City Council the only entity that could initiate historic preservation protection for a property.

The measure passed the initial step in that meeting 4-3 and is still in the process of review over several meetings. If passed, it would effectively take the role away from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

Last Updated August 9, 2019, 6:39 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor