Darnestown Presbyterian Church BEAR Blog

Exciting BEAR News!

At its planning meeting in September, Session set a target date for commencement of the campus construction of June 1, 2018.  The church received an additional pledge that puts the project within reach, but important and difficult work remains to be completed.  The permit process for the construction is nearly complete.  The BEAR Team met with the builder and architect last week, and talked through remaining details.  The builder will seek firm bids from subcontractors about April 1, in order to ensure reliable bids for a June 1 start.  Market uncertainties make it almost impossible to obtain reliable bids more than 60 days out from a construction start.

Meanwhile, the BEAR team and Session have set forth a list of tasks to be completed and are working on assigning responsibility and oversight.  These include, among others, securing a long term lease with Georgetown Hill and planning for the accomplishment of our mission and ministries during the time of construction.  In addition, the Stewardship Committee and Session are working on a new ten year financial projection that will be the basis for further discussions with the Congregation and the Presbytery regarding financing the project.  Session is planning a second capital campaign for after the first of the year, and is also planning a process to clarify our mission and ministry priorities which you will learn more about in the coming weeks.  The results of this work will further inform both the ten year financial plan, and the use of our new, flexible space.

Over the summer, the BEAR architects completed two new artistic renderings of the space which you can view below and on the BEAR bulletin board outside the bathrooms in the Andrew Small Building.  One view is inside the sanctuary and the other is outside looking toward the new gathering area.  We are excited about these views because it can be hard to understand construction simply through floor plans.

Session and the BEAR team will be working together to bring more details to the Congregation on all of the above in the coming weeks.  We understand that this project has taken a long time, and that many details have been forgotten.  As the project is so much closer to reality now, we want to take more time to bring everyone back up to speed and get all questions answered.  You will hear more about this very soon.  Thank you for your continued support, encouragement and prayers as we work hard to lay this exciting new foundation for mission and ministry for many generations to come at DPC.081817_DPC Rendering_Ext

081817_DPC Rendering_Sanct Exp




July 2017 Session Update On BEAR Status

Members of DPC,

Our building expansion and renovation project has progressed steadily now for more than five years. Session voted in May 2016 that it is committed to the project presented by the BEAR committee which focuses on expansion of the sanctuary and chancel areas, the addition of a narthex-gathering area, as well as numerous other long-overlooked upgrades and improvements aimed at improving the basic safety, accessibility and “welcomeness” of our campus. The project has overcome major hurdles with the Montgomery County Historic Commission, and in finding a solution for an expanded septic system. The remaining significant challenge relates to finding a solution to fund the project’s budget gap. In order to make sure we understand the complete project cost, Session authorized the completion of the construction documents, as well as the work to be done to file for a construction permit and obtain bids. The construction documents have been completed, and the permit application was filed in early June. Over the next few months, we will receive and respond to questions from the County and should be in a position to seek bids by this coming September.

The BEAR team and the Stewardship Committee are currently exploring several options to close the funding gap, taking into account feedback from the Congregation last year. To date, the project has spent $732,000 over five years including the costs of hiring the capital campaign consultant. The current estimate for construction and all related costs for the project going forward is $5.4M. This includes a construction contingency as well as costs for septic and HVAC systems which we believe will be reduced. Pledges from the Capital Campaign total $2.3M with an additional $34,000 given but not pledged. Internal funds available for possible use or internal loan include the investment fund of $1.2M and the Knighten fund of $504,000 (although no decisions have been made about the use of these funds). We might be able to seek loans from members, and might also consider a second capital campaign. These ideas and groundwork will be presented to our interim pastor and further considered by Session in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Session has authorized work in several areas that will help prepare us for possible BEAR construction. The BEAR project is focused on the west end of campus and the sanctuary (Phase One of the Master Plan). We can now make investments in the east end and the Manse because we know it will likely be 15 years or even more before we would be able to implement Phase Two of the Master Plan in those areas. To this end, we are working on some upgrades to the Manse that will result in two “nice-sized” classrooms, and have already been working on upgrades to Fellowship Hall. We are in the process of negotiating a new long-term lease with the school which will cover the cost of the Manse project. The school will need these Manse classrooms during any BEAR construction, and upgrades to Fellowship Hall are not only long-overdue, but would make that space feel more appropriate for worship during construction as well.

The work to be done in the cemetery must be completed in advance of BEAR construction. Unfortunately, this is a prerequisite to create room for any expansion of the sanctuary or chancel, now or in the future, because the Historic Commission would not approve any other proposed alternative impacting the historic sanctuary. The Cemetery Committee has completed the research for this project and is putting together a project plan to complete the relocation of 44 graves. The project plan will include time spent working to locate and notify relatives of the deceased impacted by the planned moves.

Session continues to work hard to lay the groundwork for continued ministry in our community for many years to come, and very much needs your continued, active involvement and support. We ask for your continued prayers, patience and feedback as each and all of us continue to consider and plan for the future of our church.

May God continue to richly bless Darnestown Presbyterian Church,

DPC Session


Update Message from Session

Members and Friends of DPC,

A number of you have inquired recently about the status of the capital campaign and the need to fulfill campaign pledges. We write to ask that all donors continue to fulfill their pledges – for both the campaign as well as 2016 annual pledges.

While we held off from voting on the funding of the building expansion project in May of this year, this did not mean that we decided not to pursue the project. We simply elected to take additional time to complete the architectural drawings and finalize a detailed cost estimate so that we could have greater certainty of the total cost and financing that would be needed for the project. The BEAR committee is making progress in this endeavor and is preparing to share their findings with all of us in the early part of next year.

In the meantime, our aging facilities continue to have serious needs that we will have to address. So rest assured, your donations will be put to good use to address these needs. So please continue to fulfill your pledges to the campaign as well as for 2016 annual pledges. For those that have additional means, please consider making a pledge or increasing your existing pledge by contacting dpcadmin@comcast.net or jemskr@comcast.net.


The Session of Darnestown Presbyterian Church

Session Message to Congregation

Fellow Members of Darnestown Presbyterian,

For the past couple of months, Session and the Congregation have been engaged in discussing and praying about upcoming changes to our staffing and the need for a mortgage to supplement funding of the BEAR project.  This has been a lot for everyone to process, and Session is grateful to the Congregation for its thoughtful engagement and consideration of our future.  The anxiety level over these issues has been significant.   In respect of this input, Session has decided not to ask the Congregation to vote on a mortgage at this time.  Session wants time to work with the issues raised by the Congregation in order to ensure a broader level of support and Congregational unity with respect to these decisions about our future.

Session is going to go back to the drawing board on the five year financial plan and map out a revised combination of proposed changes to both the expense and income sides of our annual budget.  The goal will be to reach a point in the very near future when our expenses can be covered by our annual giving, and the Georgetown Hill School income can help assist in financing the building project.  Once Session has confidence that the revised plan is sound and achievable, the plan will be brought to the Congregation.  Session expects that these modifications will address many of the concerns and issues brought forth by the Congregation, and will give the Congregation comfort regarding the potential assumption of debt in the future.

At the same time, Session remains committed to accomplishing the proposed building project outlined for our campus, including focusing on the expansion of the chancel and sanctuary, connection to the Andrew Small Building, and the new narthex.  Session believes that these upgrades are critical to establishing a firm foundation for the church’s future generations both in terms of the buildings themselves, but more critically to ensure that our ministry in Darnestown not only survives, but thrives, for many years to come.  Work will proceed over the coming six months to complete the construction documents and the filings required by the county.  Completed construction documents are necessary in order to prepare a final loan package, and to establish firm project costs.  We believe this will help with concerns raised that the building cost might continue to go up.

Over the past two years, Session started explaining to the Congregation the reality that our annual giving was not paying for our expenses, and that our giving is significantly lower than similarly-sized churches in our area.  After Session began this conversation with the Congregation, giving increased by 6.9% in 2014 and 6.1% in 2015.  In dialogue with the Congregation over the past months, it seems as though this message is resonating even further.  The revised five year plan will most certainly rely on this positive trend continuing, and the Congregation can expect to hear more about this during the 2017 pledge campaign which will take place in late 2016.  In addition, Session will consider seeking additional giving for the building fund (as has been suggested by several as a way to reduce the required loan amount).

In summary, Session heard you.  Even though it will be very difficult to achieve 100% agreement in all areas, we want to do more work to address as many concerns raised as possible.  Thank you once again for your input and engagement, and please feel free to discuss these matters with any member of Session, the BEAR team, or the Stewardship Committee.  In addition, Session will be hosting an open forum on June 5 during the education hour to take questions and continue to discuss these decisions.  May God continue to bless DPC and our continued ministry.

2016 DPC Session

Cheryl Amick, Kelvin Choi, Frank Cornelius, Ben Daughtry, Rick Dottermusch, Dave Durham, Roland Frenck, Meade Gelston, Sue Gordon, K. Henry, Jim Hoffman, Neil Jenkins, Kathy Kurkjian, Jess Neri, Jan Summers

April Conversations with the Congregation

On Sunday April 10 and Sunday April 17, Session led meetings with the Congregation to obtain feedback and discuss recent developments related to BEAR.  The sessions generally focused on the two most recent developments impacting the project – the need to secure a load to complete the financing of the project, and the loss of the associate pastor position.  Attached you can review the presentation materials that were covered.  In addition, comments, questions and answers from the first gathering on April 10 have been compiled here.

BEAR Q&A Distributed

Hello All!

Attached you will please find further details concerning the work of the BEAR Committee. The same information can be found at the following link: http://www.darnestownpc.org/filerequest/1788.docx

Please note that it was only recently that the potential need for a mortgage came to the BEAR Committee’s attention. After taking time to consider this news, Session then asked me to be in touch with the Congregation – which I did the week before Palm Sunday. Session’s goal was (and remains) to make all of our Congregation aware of all that it knows and is considering. The attachment is sent to you for this purpose.

Questions, comments and ideas are more than welcome! If you’d like to respond formally, you may email the church (dpchurch@comcast.net), and we’ll forward your responses on to Session for consideration. Or you may wish to be in touch with an Elder personally (current Board members are listed below). 

No decision concerning a mortgage has yet been made by Session. If Session does chose to enter into a mortgage, this decision must then be approved by vote at a properly called Meeting of the Congregation of DPC.

So for now, we consider together.

May our Lord guide and bless us!


Session members:
Cheryl Amick, Kelvin Choi, Frank Cornelius, Ben Daughtry, Rick Dottermusch, Dave Durham, Roland Frenck, Meade Gelston, Sue Gordon, K. Kenry, Jim Hoffman, Neil Jenkins, Kathy Kurkjian, Jess Neri, and Jan Summers.


Dave McNeilly Pastor | Darnestown Presbyterian Church | 15120 Turkey Foot Rd. | Darnestown, MD 20878 | Tel. +1 301.948.9127 | Cell: +1 301.356.4589 | Fax +1 301.948.9135 |email: dpcpastor@comcast.net | Facebook


Update Letter from Pastor Dave

Hello All,

I write to you this day at the request of the Session of Darnestown Presbyterian Church with several matters facing us.

Session has begun discussing plans for my approaching retirement. We have learned that National Capital Presbytery advises long-term associate pastors to move before a new head of staff is called. I have spoken with Tamara about seeking a new position, and she has begun a search for her next call. She has been a true blessing to DPC over her 11 years here, and I could not have possibly served with a better associate. We wish her only the very best and trust the Lord will grant her discernment. Please note that neither my retirement, nor Tamara’s move, will occur in the immediate future, but there is change in the air for both of us.

With respect to our Building Expansion and Renovation (BEAR) Project, Session has good news and a word of challenge. The good news is that the Historical Preservation Commission of Montgomery County has granted us permission to move forward on the renovation/expansion of our buildings. This all has involved much time and effort, but we are close to moving forward! The challenging news is that the expense of the project has come in considerably higher than we hoped. Our preferred builder spent much time costing the project, and the BEAR Committee informs me that they have a high degree of confidence in his estimate, but in a nutshell, there is a $1.6 million gap between his estimate and the funds we have available to build. The Capital Campaign has raised about $2.5 million, and Session has decided to apply about $1.2 million from our building fund/endowment for the project. This totals $3.7 million – a healthy amount. But the building estimate we received is $5.3 million – hence the $1.6 million shortfall. Session has spent considerable time in recent weeks wrestling with this shortfall and has made no decision – other than to have me inform the Congregation of where we stand right now.

A mortgage has been discussed, with all Elders aware that one of our primary goals for this project was to do our work without a mortgage. Our Stewardship Committee has – after careful analysis – developed a financial model showing how we could manage the costs of the monthly mortgage payment if, after Tamara’s departure, we choose to not refill the associate pastor position – plus a short-term cut in mission giving and a cutback on the Building Manager position. But even with these cuts, the estimated $8700 dollar monthly mortgage payment for 25 years is daunting. This could necessitate a second Capital Campaign to reduce debt in about five years. Session also understands that DPC has been doing its ministry with two full-time pastors for quite some time, so moving to one would be challenging. But please be aware that it is not uncommon for a church of our size to have a quite effective ministry with one pastor.

Please note that Session has been united in support of the overall goals of the BEAR Project. On all previous matters concerning BEAR, Session actions have been unanimous. Regular informational meetings have been held to keep the Congregation up to date on the details of the expansion/renovation under consideration. We do need a gathering area for fellowship close to the sanctuary. Our current building is in definite need of renovation and if we are to grow in our ability to bless the community, this is one of those times (that have challenged DPC every 50 years or so) to renovate and expand. So most of us have a good idea of what is being considered, and now all are aware of the challenge facing us.

A more detailed description of all the above is being prepared and will be sent to the Congregation in the very near future. We will hold forums wherein questions/comments will be welcome. And if Session does eventually decide to recommend a mortgage and/or to not continue the associate pastor position, then both of these matters will have to come to the Congregation for final action at a properly called Congregational Meeting.

For now, could you all:
– Please hold this entire matter in your thoughts and prayers;
– Be in touch with Elders to give them your thoughts and input on the matter; and
– Understand that Session is openly seeking your input, so it might best discern the future.

Know that it has been my privilege to work with our Session throughout this entire process. They have been diligent in their attention to the matter, and all meetings have been conducted in a good spirit and proper order.

Thank you to all who have served on the BEAR Committee. They have put in hours of time and have worked hard to provide us with plans for renovation/building that will bless our ministry.

It is just now time to decide on how we will proceed, and your input is needed.

And may God bless our efforts!


Dave McNeilly Pastor | Darnestown Presbyterian Church | 15120 Turkey Foot Rd. | Darnestown, MD 20878 | Tel. +1 301.948.9127 | Cell: +1 301.356.4589 | Fax +1 301.948.9135 |email: dpcpastor@comcast.net