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Scottsbluff Episcopal parish undergoes facelift

November 16, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — St. Francis Episcopal Church, a building that’s been a part of the downtown area for almost a century, is undergoing a rebuild to make the facility even more welcoming.

Mark Selvey, St. Timothy’s rector since 2013, said the parish has experienced a significant amount of growth over the past five years.

“We’re never going to be a huge church, but most mainline churches are struggling to grow at all,” he said. “The Episcopal Church on the national level has been declining, but we’re one of the few churches in the Diocese of Nebraska that’s growing.”

He said their growth can be attributed to the church’s energetic and welcoming atmosphere projected by parish members.

However, several visitors said at first they wondered where the front door of the church was located. Others were unsure of the church’s location which is on the corner of First Avenue and 20th Street in Scottsbluff.

The vestry and foundation members began discussing how they could change the building’s physical appearance to be more visually open, giving it more connection to the surrounding downtown community.

The first phase was to remove a white stucco border wall around the front of the church, opening up a view of the sunken courtyard and windows into the parish hall. The wall will be replaced with an open-air railing for safety, while still providing a beautiful view.

“We want to show off one of the most beautiful parts of the church,” Selvey said. “Because we’re landlocked, we can’t build a new building. But we can make this one even more attractive.”

The second phase of the project is to expand the entry area, called the narthex, to accommodate more people as they arrive for services.

“It’s like the front door to your home,” he said. “We wanted a little bigger space where people could get their coats off, gather and maybe have a cup of coffee before or after going into church.”

After the project is completed next spring, the parish will be increasing its outreach into the community.

“We want to know how we can be a bigger presence in the mission and ministry of God in this small place,” Selvey said. “We started the backpack ministry which has become a big deal for providing food for kids in our schools. It just outgrew the space we had.”

Going forward, Selvey wants to know what will be the outreach identity of St. Francis and what does the community need that they can provide.

“We’re a downtown church, so maybe there are some particular needs in the area that is unique,” he said. “We’re not sure what those needs are yet, but I think opening up is a part of that.”

In 2017, the Episcopal Church Diocese of Nebraska observed its 150th anniversary.

“It’s my intention to have a church on this corner another 100 years if I have anything to do with it,” Selvey said at the time. “I’m going to do anything I can to help this church grow, survive and thrive. Because I believe the Episcopal witness is important.”

jpurvis@starherald.com

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