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Church ready for overhaul

One of Burbank’s oldest churches is getting a $4.5-million upgrade. Members of First Presbyterian Church celebrated the major overhaul of their main sanctuary at 521 E. Olive St. on Sunday.

“The structure of the church is very sound, so it is a matter of taking out things that are old and tired and now un-useful for us,” said Ross Purdy, who has been a pastor at the church since 2001.

The project has been in the works since 2004, with fundraising kicking off earlier this summer, Purdy said. So far, church members have contributed more than $1.1 million toward a fundraising goal of $2.5 million.

The balance of the $4.5-million tab will be covered by the sale of a secondary church property and a loan, Purdy said.


“Our water pipes are 60 years old,” Purdy said. “Our electrical is very outdated. We have a worship space that is becoming darker and darker — as lights go out, we can’t replace them because of the [aging electrical infrastructure].”

First Presbyterian Church, which has about 350 members, was established in Burbank in 1887 and is believed to be the second-oldest church in the city. Burbank First United Methodist Church predates it by about a year, Purdy said.

The church’s main sanctuary has not been upgraded in more than 60 years, said project architect David Keitel, adding that the renovation is long overdue.

“The sanctuary was built in the 1950s, and it has basically remained untouched since that date, so it is really very tired,” Keitel said.


The installation of an elevator will make different parts of the building, including a second floor and a basement, handicapped accessible. An adjacent courtyard will also be remodeled, Keitel said.

The new design will also better fit the church’s social ministries, Keitel said.

The congregation hopes to complete the project in time for the church’s 125th birthday celebration in October, Purdy said.