Darnestown Presbyterian Church BEAR Blog

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

HAWP Approval

front with greyLast evening, the Montgomery County Historic Commission approved DPC’s application for an historic area work permit focused on Phase 1 of the BEAR project.  Such an approval is necessary before securing a building permit for an historic structure in Montgomery County.  The Commission approved our application in all respects except with respect to the color of the addition.  The Commission is requiring us to make the addition some color other than white so that, in their view, the historic part of the white church will be more prominent.  The photo above was submitted to obtain agreement on the color change.  It shows the addition in a greyish taupe with the historic structure remaining white.

Congregational Meeting Update

21301-DPC-2015-A - 3D View - 3D View 3On Sunday, January 31, the BEAR team and architects Lemay, Erickson, Willcox updated the congregation on the progress of the project and presented a well-received “fly-through” of the new construction in the areas of the narthex and sanctuary.  The architects have completed the design development documents and they are currently in the hands of the recently selected contractor, Whitener & Jackson.  Whitener & Jackson (WJ) is one of the most experienced Church builders in this region.  WJ is working with the drawings and securing bids from subcontractors this month.  By later in February, we will have a solid idea of the overall cost of this Phase 1 of the project.

You can view the fly-through that was presented at the meeting below.

Video Credit: Lemay, Erickson, Willcox.

This is a very basic view of the construction.  The video will take you in the front doors of the new narthex.  Notice the windows and courtyard on the right providing excellent views of the Church and stained glass windows.  21301-DPC-2015-A - 3D View - 3D View 6From there, you will enter the new gathering area (think: Parlor).  Imagine the indoor and outdoor gathering that can take place in this area with access to the front.  21301-DPC-2015-A - 3D View - 3D View 4A video screen will be housed here for service overflow and other uses.  Next, exit the gathering area and go back to the lower narthex, and then up the stairs to the upper narthex.  In the upper narthex, you will have a wonderful view south into the cemetery, and again, north to the stained glass windows.  21301-DPC-2015-A - 3D View - 3D View 5You will enter the sanctuary from the upper narthex and proceed to “walk around” the new and original spaces.  21301-DPC-2015-A - 3D View - 3D View 7Notice how well the new areas marry with the old.  As much as is possible, the new construction will continue the basic, conservative feel of the original building, but also provide for additional room in both the chancel and seating areas.

21301-DPC-2015-A - 3D View - 3D View 921301-DPC-2015-A - 3D View - 3D View 8

Every aspect of the project has been designed with accessibility in mind.  An elevator is located near the steps to the upper narthex and provides access to the basement as well as up to the sanctuary level.  New, accessible bathrooms area also planned in the new narthex, as well as a warming kitchen for coffee hour use.  As always, please contact any member of BEAR if you should have any questions!

Historic Commission Submission

DPC COVERThe BEAR committee will be meeting with the Montgomery County Historic Commission for the third time on February 24, 2016 to finalize several issues.  The attached file is the application provided to the Commission in advance of the meeting.  The file provides an excellent overview of the project addressing numerous details required by the Commission, as well as exterior images.  A second file includes drawings of the civil engineering work necessary on our site.  Hopefully this will be our last presentation to the Commission in an effort secure a HAWP – an Historic Area Work Permit – for the project.

November 2015 Newsletter BEAR Update

We’re happy to report that the Building Expansion and Renovation (BEAR) effort is making steady progress on multiple fronts:
Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).
BEAR members and our architectural and legal reps presented revised architectural plans to the HPC in a second preliminaryconsultation in August. The Commission was very laudatory of our revisions, and left little doubt that they would approve a variation of these plans after further minor adjustments.
Architectural planning.
As noted, we have made significant progress towards final architectural plans. Current plans incorporate an expanded chancel, additional sanctuary seating, new bathrooms adjacent to the sanctuary, dedicated Narthex and Gathering spaces for enhanced fellowship, connection of the Andrew Small Building to the sanctuary, and full handicapped access and enhanced life safety systems.
Selection of a General Contractor (GC).
The Committee is now meeting and screening GCs as potential partners for the construction phase of the project, focusing on each firm’s history, reliability, cost effectiveness and experience with similar projects. We anticipate selection of contractor by the beginning of 2016, and ultimate groundbreaking in the Spring of 2017.
BEAR Capital Campaign.
We have now received nearly $2.5M in pledges in support of BEAR. These pledges, plus $1.3M in Session approved funding now provide for over 90% of the estimated cost to execute the Phase One plan described above. Many thanks to those donors who increased their pledges by 20% to help bridge the funding gap! Capital Campaign reps remain available to discuss your pledge today.
May God continue to bless and guide our efforts to provide for future generations at our beloved church