$24 million windfall saves historic New York church

Park Avenue Christian Church: the part of the building to be sold is on the left.Daniel Case/Wikipedia

Millions of dollars received from the sale of part of a historic church on New York's Park Avenue will be used to secure its future for "many years", according to its pastor.

Park Avenue Christian Church, part of the Disciples of Christ denomination, is negotiating a deal with Extell Development Co which would also see it get an annex as well an additional payment of potentially more than $2 million to endow a school which the church used to run but which was forced out by the impending development.

Pastor Alvin Jackson, who is credited with having revived the church since his arrival in 2006, told Christian Today: "The proceeds will be used to ensure the Church can continue with its mission, which includes enhancing and expanding on such programs as our Saturday Community Lunch Programme for the homeless, immigration clinics for new immigrants, programmes for both the youth and the elderly, as well as repairs to maintain our landmark sanctuary for future generations.

"Since the very future of our church is at stake, we do not take our stewardship of these funds lightly. The $24 million to be entrusted to us is over the course of many, many years - a modest sum to preserve an institution with so much responsibility to a community and a city."

The development has been controversial, with objections raised to an initial design which showed a glass tower cantilevered over the church's pitched roof. Furthermore, parents at the prestigious school, which contributed approximately $800,000 a year to the church in tuition fees, objected to the sale, claiming a lack of transparency. The school is open at another location, but enrolment has falling by half as children have been moved to other institutions.

Park Avenue Christian Church was founded in 1810 and has been at its current location since 1945. The church has a long history of engagement in social justice, having served as a temporary hospital during the Civil War. It has reached out to immigrants since the late 19th century and founded the Chinese Sunday School Union which taught English to Chinese immigrants until 1948.