An Update from Rev. Tommy Williams

August 1, 2018

Dear St. Paul’s friends,

Thank you for your grace and support during my summer sabbatical in June and July. It was a real time of renewal. While the “public” phase of our capital campaign concluded in May, we are still receiving your pledges and pursuing grants. Here are a few updates to fundraising and the project itself:

  • We have $8.175 million pledged with over $2 million already received!
  • As we await responses from several grants for which we have applied, anyone can submit a pledge toward the campaign, either by mail or online.
  • We are examining the bids to make the best final decisions based on the Building Committee’s work with our architects. Final drawings are being submitted for permits to the city in mid-September. We anticipate the project to begin in January 2019, with a more detailed timeline coming soon.
  • We are preparing the basement for renovations by relocating classes, offices, and the children’s choir rehearsal space to other areas. Be on the lookout for those temporary locations.

Our campaign co-chairs, Renee and John Hawkins, and Ashlee Ross deserve our deep thanks for the extraordinary generosity of their time and gifts to lead this effort. Frank Jones has capably chaired our Building Committee and many, many others have given abundantly to pursue this historic endeavor to “revive” our Sanctuary building so many call their spiritual home. We will keep updating you as we have news to share. 

See you Sundays,

Rev. Tommy Williams

St. Paul’s neo-Gothic sanctuary building has been an iconic and sacred treasure in the heart of Houston for nearly 90 years.

Thousands of people have shared life’s most important moments and holy milestones here—weddings, baptisms, memorial services, confirmation—as well as prayer and weekly worship. Faith has been formed here across generations, and many all over our city have found a place of welcome. Through it all, St. Paul’s stands as an architecturally beautiful and spiritually vibrant place. 

The Revive capital campaign intends to raise $10 million for the critical restoration of our beloved church. The scope of the project has been identified over the past two years thanks to a full assessment of the building, congregational input from the church’s recent feasibility study, and the unanimous approval of our Church Council. 



We plan to fully remove outdated mechanical equipment and replace them with modern, energy-efficient HVAC and electrical systems. Believe it or not, our air conditioning and heating equipment were installed in the 1950s. They are costly to maintain, and it is critical to replace these antiquated systems before they fail. 



We will address sections of the church’s exterior stone walls that require masonry work to repair damage and prevent water infiltration. Many of the 300 signature casement windows around the entire building, as well as parts of the roof, are also in need of repair.



We are pleased to move forward in making the building accessible while retaining its historical integrity. This will be achieved by constructing an accessible entrance from the plaza, installing a new lift indoors to provide access to the lower level, and enhancing restrooms. These renovations will create a more hospitable environment for everyone.

Campaign Videos

Introduction to the Campaign | Hear from Rev. Tommy Williams, Senior Pastor, Jim Powell, Principal Architect, and Ashlee Ross, Campaign Co-Chair as they describe the why and how of the Revive capital campaign.

Over the years, the Sanctuary Building has served us well as St. Paul's pursues vital ministries. We now find many of its mechanical and structural features have exceeded their expiration dates. As stewards of this church, we must address these critical items to ensure safe, accessible, and hospitable spaces for worship and other weekly gatherings. With its three-pronged approach to replace, repair, and renovate the facility, the Revive campaign will position St. Paul’s for this generation of ministry and beyond.

Inspiration | Members of St. Paul's UMC Houston share what the church means to them and why they are eager to support the 2018 Revive capital campaign. Special thanks to John Rowe and Kevin Page; Brenda and Gary Payne; and Janice and Noel Chang.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is involved with the AC and heat system replacement? Why is that so expensive?
A: Much of the existing air conditioning system dates to the 1950s, some even to the original construction of the Sanctuary in 1929. There are challenges with getting the existing equipment out of the basement and mechanical rooms as well as getting new equipment in for replacement. Some of the costs have to do with running new piping between the basement and the multiple mechanical rooms spread around the building. Not only does the piping have to be replaced but the finishes also have to be removed and replaced to allow for new installation of the piping. With the new installation certain aspects of the installation will have to be brought up to current building code. Additionally, temporary air conditioning will have to be provided while the new system is installed. Temporary air conditioning is necessary not only for the comfort of the congregation but to maintain temperature and humidity control for the organ and the other interior finishes. 

Q: What repairs will be done on the casement windows and roofing?
A: The original steel casement windows need to be cleaned and painted. Some units have rusted and need to have parts and pieces replaced in order to restore them. Some glass is damaged and needs to be replaced. None of the original stained glass windows are slated for restoration. As far as the roofing goes, the majority of the roof work is to replace all the upper flat roofs. These are really not seen from the ground level. Additionally, there are some roof drains on those flat roofs that need repair. The slate roofs and most flashings are in good shape and would only get minor repairs. 

Q: Some of the bathrooms in the church are looking dated and are not handicap accessible. What improvements will be made there?
A: Bathrooms in the Narthex and on the 2nd and 3rd floors will be made accessible, along with new fixtures and upgraded finishes.

Q: The lift to the basement level has been out of service for some time. Is there a plan to address that piece of equipment?
A: Yes! The lift to the basement is planned to be completely replaced. The plan is to replace this unit ahead of the other construction projects to regain access to the basement for those unable to use the stairs.

Q: Will the planned wheelchair ramp at the main entrance affect the large oak tree nearby?
A: An arborist has been consulted and asked to make recommendations to how to avoid damage the beautiful live oak tree. They plan to start a feeding and pruning process prior to construction, as well as monitor and review work around the tree during the construction to minimize any unnecessary damage. To further minimize root damage, the engineering for the foundation of the ramp will reflect the recommendations of the arborist.

Q: I see signs of water infiltration in the interior of the basement. Is that being addressed?
A: Yes, the exterior stone walls will be cleaned and sealed, and damaged mortar joints will be selectively repaired. This will help prevent rain water from absorbing into the stone walls, moving through the inside of the walls and down into the basement. Additionally, waterproofing efforts be made to the interior of the basement walls to stop water infiltration. Lastly, exterior grading and drainage is planned to be installed to direct water away from the foundation which should also help water infiltration.

Q: Is the Columbarium affected by the work in the basement?
A: Waterproofing that is happening in the basement will also occur in the Columbarium. Some floor finishes may have to be removed and replaced for this work. None of the Columbarium vaults should be affected by this work.

Q: Who is being hired to perform the work?
A: We are planning to contract with WS Bellowsto act as the general contractor for this project. Bellows has performed other projects for St. Paul's, including the Jones Building addition/renovation and Bankston Green. Bellows has many years of experience in not only general construction but also with historical renovation projects. The architect hired by the church to coordinate this work is Merriman Holt Powell Architects. MHP was the architect for the Jones Building addition/renovation, Bankston Green and the Youth Center renovation. One of their specialties is liturgical work, for congregations across Texas and beyond. Additionally, Principal Jim Powell is a member of the church.

Q: When will work begin, and how long is the entire project expected to take?
A: We hope to begin the work in January 2019. January is a good time of year to start the work on the mechanical systems. The work is expected to take between 11 and 12 months to complete. 

Q: What disruptions might the congregation encounter during the project?
A: There will be times when access points into the church may have to change during the course of the work. Temporary air conditioning units may be visible outside while the mechanical systems are being replaced. Scaffolding will need to be erected around the church in order to provide access for masonry repairs, roofing, and window restoration. The basement renovation will be staged for minimal impact on room uses, including the Children’s Music Room. Some room uses will need to relocated temporarily during construction.