A PROGRESS REPORT
“We have begun building!” Our last report anticipated such a beginning of this article. And it is true. Not a great deal can be seen yet of the building, but progress ought to be fairly rapid in future weeks.
But before speaking of building progress, we ought to go back a bit. The “Blue-Ribbon” Committee had completed the work toward acquiring the seminary building site and had instructed the architect to complete the blueprints. All this was finished not very long before our last Synod met on June 6. The next step was to submit the plans to the various contractors for their bids. Then the total of the lowest bids would be added up, and we would know what the cost of building would be. We waited with some trepidation for the figures to come in.
A special meeting was called by the “Blue Ribbon” Committee to discuss the results of the bids. On June 5, after the Synodical prayer service in Hudsonville, the Theological School Committee and the “Blue Ribbon” Committee met. There were some long faces at that meeting. A member of the “Blue Ribbon” Committee admitted that he had not slept much the night after the bids were totaled. He felt that somehow the “Blue Ribbon” Committee had let down the Theological School Committee and our Synod too. The Synod of 1972 had approved the expenditure of approximately $105,000 for building and land. But this was the estimated cost for the old building site next to Southeast Church. A new site would involve the committee in added expenses. Inflation would increase the cost of the building. We had discussed how much above the figure Synod had approved we could go—yet remain within the intent of Synod. We were ready to proceed if the figure were only reasonably above the $105,000. But the figure the “Blue Ribbon” Committee submitted went beyond what they and we anticipated. Hence, the long faces.
The figure? $153,000.00. We had only one alternative. We would present the figure to Synod for its approval.
Synod began meeting the following day, and later in the week dealt with this question of the Seminary building and its cost. Unanimously, Synod approved the figure and instructed the Theological School Committee and the “Blue Ribbon” Committee to proceed with construction. Needless to say, the action of Synod was very encouraging for both of these committees.
Synod took further action. It decided to authorize the Theological School Committee to borrow from surplus Synodical funds at 5 1/2% interest, to borrow from other sources if necessary, and to conduct annual drives in our churches till the Seminary Building is completely paid for. One striking thing: Synod intends that all these funds be raised through voluntarycontributions. The “easy way out” would have been to lay assessments on all the churches for this building. After all, the money comes out of the same pockets anyway. But in raising the money on a voluntary basis, each can give according to his ability, and all can show their real and personal interest in our seminary. Nor have the members of our churches failed in our expectations, but have far exceeded them. Who would have thought a year ago that by now we would have received an average of $132.00 per family for this cause (in cash and pledges)? Each church will be hearing more about the annual drive shortly.
The week after Synod took its decision to proceed with building, the ground on the site was prepared for construction. Several weeks later, the foundation was laid; later yet, the cement walls were poured to the ground level. At present, electrical and heating work is being done before the cement floor is poured.
There have been a few delays. There will likely be some in the future. But the picture looks bright. Much of the materials for the building has been purchased and only waits the time for its need when it will be delivered to the site.
The Theological School Committee also had the opportunity recently to purchase much of the necessary furnishings at only a fraction of its retail cost. This included tables, desks, 70 stacking chairs for the assembly room, and much other equipment. We are indebted to Steelcase, Inc. of Grand Rapids for the opportunity of obtaining all this equipment.
When will the building be finished? No one dares make a firm commitment. However, there seems every reason to believe that we will begin using the building by the beginning of the second semester of the school year (mid-January)—and perhaps sooner.
Take time out, if you are in the vicinity of the site, to visit. The location is at about 4949 Ivanrest, S.W. One can drive directly up to the point of construction. We can assure you, you won’t be disappointed.
At present, we have $106,431.69 in cash, assets, and pledges. This represents some $14,500 above the sum reported in the last article. We are much encouraged by this. We have $74,630.19 in cash and assets, and $31,801.50 in unpaid pledges.
Now for some of the hard facts. By the end of this year, we will have to raise virtually all of the $153,000.00. If we subtract our present assets, we arrive at the figure of $78,370.00 to be borrowed (of this amount, $31,801 is already pledged, $46,569 is yet to be raised). The committee will have to find sources from which it can borrow this sum (part of which can be borrowed from Synodical surplus funds). The committee is agonizing over this now.
On borrowed money, as everyone knows, interest must be paid. And interest rates have gone up greatly just the past few months. The churches can be saved a great sum of money if we have cash on hand. We would like to suggest, therefore, that those who can do so, pay their pledges as soon as possible. Those who intended to contribute, but for some reason have been putting it off, we urgently need your help NOW. If each of our families and working young people and individuals contribute an average of $150.00, we will be able to meet all of our commitments. We have received so much from the Seminary God has given us during the past 50 years; now in a tangible way we can show a bit of our gratitude by providing a building where professors and students can labor with joy.
We do want to thank the generous giver. We have already received far more gifts than we had believed possible only a year ago. Our present plea for additional funds is not meant to suggest stinginess on the part of our people. Hardly so. Only, now that we have come so close to the reaching of our goal, we can only think that a little additional help from each of us will put us “over the top.”
Before long, we do hope to present to you the plans for the dedication of our new Seminary Building. Watch for these. We would like as many of you present as can possibly come.
The Theological School Committee
(by Rev. G. VanBaren)