Inside the sanctuary of the 82-year-old National City Christian Church, the damage is clear: a three-foot hole inside one of the plaster tiles above the altar, and atop the columns that surround the church's huge pipe organ, cracks are visible in the plaster capitals.
But inside the sanctuary of the 82-year-old limestone structure, the damage is clear: a 3-foot hole inside one of the plaster tiles above the altar, and atop the columns that surround the church’s huge pipe organ, cracks are visible in the plaster capitals.
“Our challenge right now is a three-fold challenge: to repair the hole in the ceiling above the pulpit, to replace the capitals on top of the four columns, and to clean the pipe organ,” says Charles Miller, the church’s minister of music.
About 500 of the organ’s 7,100 pipes were damaged, some beyond repair, from falling plaster.
Despite that, the organ still plays, and its power will be on display Wednesday night for a recital Miller is giving, to raise money toward repairs inside the church.
“My Favorite Bach,” a concert of works by Johann Sebastian Bach, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the church’s main sanctuary.
An earlier fundraiser, a vocal recital held March 9, raised $2,000 for earthquake repairs. More fundraisers are planned in April and June, including another organ recital in Kansas City, Mo., close to the Midwestern roots of the National City Christian Church’s denomination, Disciples of Christ.
“Because this church is nationally known, and really serves as the representative church of the denomination here in Washington, D.C., we have a large body of people who know this church from around the country,” Miller says.
The church’s main building was built between 1929 and 1930 and designed by John Russell Pope, the architect behind the Jefferson Memorial and the National Archives building.
The plaster tiles above the altar, one of which has that big gash in the middle, are a signature style of Pope’s.
The church says it needs to raise $150,000 to restore the sanctuary as close to its original condition as possible. So far, it’s raised just $15,000. The goal is to have 75 percent of the needed funds in hand by June 1 so the church can begin to hire contractors.
“We don’t want to have to take out a loan, or we don’t have any other reserves in our accounts to really fund this,” Miller says.
Still, he says many of the church’s approximately 300 members have gone above and beyond their usual offerings to try to get the job done.
“That’s been gratifying to know that people have reached further into their pockets in a time where everybody across the country is suffering with a smaller wallet than what they might like,” Miller says.