"We shape our buildings,
and afterwards our buildings shape us."
– Winston Churchill

While a building doesn’t define a church, it has long been a way to gather the people that make up the church family. Facilities can attract, encourage, support and inspire people, or they can create barriers and send discouraging messages. A church building is a vital hub for making disciples of every generation. The Session of Highland Park Pres is currently exploring the best ways to match our facilities to the vision for our church’s future, and your feedback is crucial to this important next step in our church’s history.

The Process

• Session Vision-Finding Retreat (Complete). In 2012, The Session spent time in a retreat praying for discernment for the future of Highland Park Pres. This led to a survey of the congregation to better understand the needs of our growing church body.

• Congregational Survey (Complete). A survey was sent to the congregation asking questions relating to the life and ministry of our church, which helped define several key future opportunities.

• Mission Study Report (Complete). Using feedback from the survey, the Mission Study Report highlighted eight opportunities for growth. One of these opportunities was matching our campus to the future vision for our church. It was elevated as a critical goal.

• Campus Vision Team Formed (Complete). The Session created the Campus Vision Team to address the critical goal that was raised in the Mission Study Report; to engage an architecture firm that specialized in church renovations; to listen to both the congregation and staff to identify needs; and to create a plan to move forward.

• Merriman Holt Architects Hired to Create Master Plan (Complete). The Campus Vision Team, with support of the Session, hired Merriman Holt Architects to facilitate the creation of a master plan for the future of our campus. Merriman Holt is a firm that specializes in updating church buildings like ours. In recent years, they have been responsible for renovations at HPUMC and First Presbyterian Church Dallas.

• Town Hall and Listening Sessions (In Progress). The Campus Vision Team will hosted a Town Hall meeting on Sunday, Oct. 25 and visited many Sunday Morning Communities in order to solicit feedback from the congregation. Feedback is still being accepted. The feedback will be collected and given to Merriman Holt to incorporate into their master plan proposal. 

• Benchmarking (In Progress). The Campus Vision Team will be conducting research at similar churches in order to collect additional feedback and ideas to pass along to the architects.

• Merriman Holt Presents Ideas for Master Plan. In the first quarter of 2016, Merriman Holt will present to the Session a proposed master plan for the future of our campus. It will be also be presented to the congregation and will include architectural renderings. 

• Selection and Prioritization of Presented Ideas by Session. Session will take time to review the proposed master plan and decide which parts to accept and then prioritize them based on urgency and feasibility.

• Congregation Invited to Support Campus Vision Initiative, Above and Beyond Normal Giving. If this moves forwards, there would be a season where the congregation will be asked to support the Campus Vision initiative through gifts above and beyond normal giving. Campus Vision projects will be funded separately from the General Operating Budget.

• Building Projects Begin. If projects have been selected by the Session and funds have been committed, then renovations will begin.


We have compiled a list of common questions that will help your understanding of the Campus Vision initiative. If you have additional questions or feedback you can submit them online or attend the Town Hall meeting.

  1. How did this begin? Where is this going?
  2. What is the scope of the campus vision project?
  3. Who is the architecture firm hired to make the proposal?
  4. Who will decide which or if recommendations are implemented?
  5. How will we pay for the selected projects, if we move forward?
  6. How much would this cost?

1) How did this begin? Where is this going?

The Campus Vision initiative is just one small part of a process that has been going on for years. In 2012, the Session began a vision-finding process that engaged our congregation in order to identify opportunities for growth at our church. In 2014, a team was assembled to lead the project of matching our church’s campus to the vision desired by our members. The Campus Vision Team is currently listening to member feedback in order to direct the architecture firm’s creation of a master plan proposal.

Once a master plan is created, it will be reviewed by the Session with input from the congregation. Session will take time to review the proposed master plan, and then either accept or reject parts of it. The parts that are accepted will be prioritized based on urgency and feasibility. It is possible that not all ideas in the proposed master plan will be approved by Session.

The Campus Vision process is intentionally not a quick one. It’s the goal of the Campus Vision Team to involve the entire congregation in this important part of our church’s future. A more specific time table will be provided in the future.


2) What is the scope of the Campus Vision project?

Our nearly nine-acre campus, nestled by homes on all sides, has grown over the last eight decades and includes structures for worship and teaching, gathering and administration. Ten houses are included in this area, and are collectively referred to as the West Block.

The determined scope of this initiative will only include facilities on our property bound by Shannon Ln to Park St and University Blvd to McFarlin Blvd. At this time, the West Block will not be evaluated.


3) Who is the architecture firm hired to make the proposal?

Merriman Holt is a Houston-based firm with a strong emphasis on church campuses. Over the past 22 years, MHA has designed 68 church projects with a construction value of over $365 million. The firm’s work has included the design of sanctuaries, chapels, fellowship halls, activity centers, classroom buildings, gathering spaces, music spaces, theaters and offices. They are also well-known for restructuring and repurposing existing or aging facilities in order to maximize the modern experience for members and guests. Merriman Holt was responsible for the recent master plan and construction for neighboring Highland Park United Methodist Church, as well as First Pres in downtown Dallas.

In late 2014, we engaged Merriman Holt, who specializes in maximizing existing facilities to create dynamic, welcoming and modern church-going experiences. Merriman Holt’s team spent time this summer surveying our campus and interviewing staff and lay leaders to understand how to creatively overcome our functional constraints in order to meet the desired experience for members and guests on our campus.

As the committee and architects continue their evaluation, input from our members is needed to complete the proposal. Leaders want to stress that no decisions have been made about building modifications – this is an exploratory and listening phase of the project. The Campus Vision Team has called a Town Hall Meeting to introduce themselves, to deliver a presentation about the process to date and to encourage feedback and suggestions from attendees. 

Several Merriman Holt projects are highlighted below. 

Highland Park United Methodist Church

HPUMC had a significant renovation in 2004 to address accessibility, connectivity and welcoming constraints on their campus. Creating a prominent entrance from the main parking area; eliminating pedestrian traffic bottlenecks and handicap accessible issues outside of the Sanctuary; and creating a multi-use space for the Cornerstone (modern) worship service and activities are just some of the MHA initiatives highlighted in these photos. 


First Presbyterian Church Dallas

First Presbyterian Dallas engaged MHA to create a main entrance to the church. As the before picture indicates, the welcome point was a dark set of double doors hidden inside the parking garage. Many of their spaces were disconnected, such as the Nursery and the Sanctuary as indicated in the schematic. The worship space entry and exit locations were pinch points that discouraged visiting after services. The gym was outdated and lacked natural light and flexibility for other uses. Take a look at the remarkable improvements made for First Pres Dallas in these photos!


First Presbyterian Church Houston

First Pres Houston’s campus had space available for structural expansion but leaders wanted to ensure that additions would integrate well into the existing architecture. Photos show parts of the project including a large fellowship hall, common areas and a multi-purpose area for athletic activities that easily transforms into worship venue or performance auditorium.


4) Who will decide which or if recommendations are implemented?

The Session, with input from the congregation, will review a proposed master plan from Merriman Holt Architects, which will also include input from the congregation. The Session will then accept parts of or the whole master plan, and prioritize the updates in the master plan by importance and feasibility. 


5) How will we pay for the selected projects, if we move forward?

Similar to our Forward by Faith initiative in 2008, the congregation will be invited to support the Campus Vision initiative by giving to a special fund, above and beyond normal giving to our General Operating Budget.


6) How much would this cost?

There is no projected cost at this time. The Session is leading this project by first asking, “What does our campus need to look like to make it match our vision?” Defining this, with input from the congregation, is an important first step. Once a master plan is proposed and the Session is able to review it, projected costs of different projects will be made available to the congregation.

Campus Vision TEAM

Session created the six-member Campus Vision Team to represent leadership with project vendors as well as to serve as a liaison to the congregation and for members who want to share their opinions and suggestions. Members are:

Art Harding
Doug Hawthorne
Lila Marshall
Leslie Melson
Monty Montgomery
Nancy Seay
Clay Sell

Campus Vision Feedback Form

The committee values your suggestions, concerns and feedback during the listening phase of the opportunity to match our campus to the vision for the future. If you would like to address your comments to a specific team member, please indicate that person in your note.

Please answer the simple math question below to submit the form.
2 + 2 =
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