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John Huffman’s Reflections On Our St. Andrew’s Cross

January 4, 2017 1 Comment Share

Read below for a special message from Dr. John A. Huffman on our iconic St. Andrew’s Cross …

Are you rejoicing with me to see the St. Andrew’s cross once again hovering over our campus during the daylight hours and so magnificently etched by light against the darkened evening sky? Shawn Reilly has asked me to share a bit of its history.

Back in the late 1970s, early in my pastorate, we examined the various possibilities of a building program designed to meet the then present and perceived future needs of our congregation. We gave serious consideration to relocating the church from its then present site of slightly over two acres to the front fourteen acres of the Castaways at the corner of Dover and the Pacific Coast Highway. When the Irvine Company withdrew its offer to sell, we began our earnest effort to double our usable land by purchasing the last two of ten houses on Clay Street, land that is now our parking lot. We also interviewed some thirty national architectural firms, finally deciding on Edward Ware Associates of Rockford, Illinois. They, working collaboratively with our Session and appointed building committee, came up with a design plan. The plan called for an open campus with a sanctuary/office structure placed in the very center of our land reaching 130 feet in height with an underground youth/family center and attached underground parking.

This magnificent plan created enormous controversy in the neighborhood, with numerous meetings with our community leaders; first before the Newport Beach Planning Commission and then the City Council. The result was that this original plan that had become a finalist for a national church architecture award, was forced to make way for the radical conceptual design change reflected in the campus we have today. Included in that compromise was a height limitation of 46 feet for all of our buildings with the highest-density people usage facility, the Sanctuary, placed as far away as possible from the residential community. As a result, we have the Sanctuary positioned as close to the high school as possible. In exchange for this drastic design change, the City Council approved a Christian cross, reaching to the full 130 feet height of the originally desired structure, to be planted at the center part of the campus.

Then the question became what kind of a cross. Your building committee wanted to maintain our historic Presbyterian roots with something resembling a Celtic cross in our Scottish tradition but one with a unique design that would forever become our own distinctive St. Andrew’s symbol. Ed Ware and his team came up with the present, more contemporary, design based on the Celtic cross but with an asymmetrical angulation representing the tortured reality of God’s redemptive work for us through Jesus Christ nailed to that First Century Roman cross. This combined with the painful angularity and complexity of our contemporary human existence and specifically of those of us who would be served in the years ahead under this symbol of God’s continuing work on our behalf.

The rapidly increasing financial cost of the building program was of great concern for all of us in leadership positions. We determined that there needed to be seventy percent of the cost committed in pledges before there would be ground-breaking. And, in contrast to Robert Schuler’s simultaneous fund-raising program for the Crystal Cathedral, based on naming pews, window panes, organs and even buildings after people, that we would do no naming of items and no placing of donor plaques. Instead, there would be a book kept in the administrative office commemorating any designated gifts given in honor or memory of those that enabled the funding of some of the more expensive and visible projects that were part of this effort. For example, the Murdy family gave the marvelous Casavant organ that has so graced our worship services at a cost of over four times what originally had been budgeted. Anne and I gave the pulpit and communion table in honor of God’s Word and Sacrament that would, for the years ahead, be preached and carried out from those worship centers. Don and Pat Yoder gave the cross in memory of their dear daughter Debbie, who died after a long struggle with leukemia. These and many other symbolic gifts were given. No emphasis was ever placed on who gave what, but that together we could accomplish this building program and the ongoing growing local and world mission ministry with the tithes and offerings of God’s people – never mingling the two separate funds. God did amazingly provide. To Him be all the glory and praise for the remarkable manner in which He has financially and spiritually sustained St. Andrew’s. We trust Him, through His people, to continue to provide for this ever-expanding strategic ministry as symbolized by our iconic St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church cross now once again standing sentinel above all we say and do!

One response to “John Huffman’s Reflections On Our St. Andrew’s Cross”

  1. Carole Metcalf says:

    I love reading this, Dr. Huffman. I was married at St. Andrews in early 1977, attended often and joined in the mid 80’s. I lived through much of the building processes but never remember the story of the cross. Thank you for sharing this story.

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