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New windows will lower costs, make church cozier

Rev. Dr. Deborah J. Allen, pastor at United Church of Christ, stands in front of a wall of steel windows at the back of the sanctuary. Installed in the 1950s, the single-pane windows don’t keep out the heat in summer or cold in winter.

Rev. Dr. Deborah J. Allen, pastor at United Church of Christ, stands in front of a wall of steel windows at the back of the sanctuary. Installed in the 1950s, the single-pane windows don’t keep out the heat in summer or cold in winter. Photo by Mark Gibson.

As shepherds of a historic building, members of United Church of Christ Congregational have their hands full with ongoing maintenance requirements.

But they’ve gotten a big assist on one large project from the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency, which granted the church $26,200 to help replace 25 old, drafty windows in the circa 1936 building.

The church raised $6,800 on its own to go toward the overall $33,000 cost of the project.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Rev. Dr. Deborah Allen, pastor at UCC Church. “We’re very grateful because it’s going to make a big difference in our heating bills.”

Allen said the building qualified for help from urban renewal because “we’re in the historic district and our building is used by the community, not just us. We take our participation in the life of this community seriously and groups can use our building and do, and we see our building as part of our ministry here.”

The church will use the same type of replacement windows that were used in refurbishing the Commodore building downtown, and are acceptable to the state for restoring historic buildings.

Congregation member Nikki Lesich helped the church seek the urban renewal funds. She served on the urban renewal advisory committee before becoming mayor and was familiar with the program.

She said other church buildings had gotten the funding also.

“You can’t wait until the 11th hour on a historical building to say, ‘I think we need some help.’ Urban renewal is there for help with historical preservation and that’s exactly what they did with this grant proposal and we appreciate it very much.

“As our pastor, Deb Allen, very poetically put it, this is not only a historical building but it is a living building, and we use it not only for services but classrooms are used for preschool, AA meetings, and also the Boy Scouts and Habitat for Humanity have offices here,” Lesich said.

Lesich and Allen both stressed the stained glass windows in the sanctuary were not being replaced. The windows slated for replacement are clear windows, many facing the north side of the building.

Allen said there are two categories of the 25 windows to be replaced.

“In the sanctuary side of our building there are older wood windows and you can hold your hand up next to them and feel the breeze. That’s where the Commodore type windows will go.”

Those windows are in a room off the sanctuary called the Roberts Room, where the church holds its coffee hour.

The rest of the windows to be replaced are in the newer wing of the church and date to the 1950s.

Those windows, Allen said, “are just conduits to outside air, so we’re getting new energy-efficient, but beautiful windows.”

The church took its request to the city’s Historic Landmarks Preservation committee, which first asked the church to look at repairing, rather than replacing the windows.

But after a significant amount of research, including Allen placing a call to the TV show “This Old Home,” the church learned that repair wasn’t a viable option, Lesich said.

The church submitted its request to the urban renewal agency last July. The process began when the church asked the Northern Wasco County People’s Utility District to do an energy audit on its buildings.

“It was after their audit that we went ‘We’ve got to do something about this,’” Allen said.

But even before the audit, the church knew its windows were a problem. “We’ve known we’ve had to replace windows. We’ve had money set aside, but we know it wouldn’t do the job.”

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