Community sanctuary: St. Francis In-The-Fields begins expansion project


With a goal to create space for the community, St. Francis In-The-Fields Episcopoal Church recently began a renovation project to overhaul the majority of the building at 1525 Mulberry St. in Zionsville.

Renovation plans were first considered nearly five years ago, when the church began a feasibility study for a capital campaign. That effort was put on hold when the pandemic hit in 2020.

Cory Murphy, a member of the congregation who is also one of the organizers for the project, said plans were renewed about 18 months ago when church leaders reached out to the community.

“There were a lot of different ideas offered up (such as) kids having a safe space after school to various programs that we’re currently hosting,” Murphy said. “We realized that something needed to be done to open up our space and let other groups utilize our space, being uniquely located right between the high school and the Boys & Girls Club. There’s a lot of traffic and activity around there.”

Church leaders kicked off a ‘Vision in Action’ campaign, raising money internally to expand the spaces at the church that are not used for worship.

“Thankfully, with all the work and care that the St. Francis community pulled together, we raised over $3 million for this campaign,” Murphy said. “We have certain phases (planned) for the work but it’s really going to open up the opportunity for a lot more people to utilize the space, which is the core of all of this.”

Those funds will finance a transformational building project to create space to support and enable both the congregation and the Zionsville community in a safe, open and welcoming place where people can grow spiritually, individually and in their community, according to the church.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held this spring.

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From left, The Rev. C. Davies Reed, Zionsville Mayor John Stehr and Curate Joél Muñoz participate in a ceremonial groundbreaking at the church this spring with Rev. C. Davies Reed, left. (Photo courtesy of St. Francis In-The-Fields)

The Rev. C. Davies Reed, rector at St. Francis In-The-Fields, said the expansion is not specific to the congregation. He said the church worked with the Town of Zionsville, Zionsville Community Schools, the Boys & Girls Club, Zionsville United Methodist Church and other stakeholders including members of other religious and civic communities to see how to make the church a better community asset for Zionsville.

“We have a lot of outside groups that already use this space,” Reed said. “Because the space was built in four different construction pieces over 50 years, it doesn’t flow very well. In fact, it flows remarkably poorly. So, we’re expanding our entryway to make a big gathering space, and that becomes the hub for the building.”

Renovations planned inside the non-worship space include the youth wing, classrooms, bathrooms, the office area and the kitchen, which is being relocated to a new portion of the building.

“The phrase we’ve learned in this process is, ‘that, too, has lived its useful lifespan’ and that certainly includes the kitchen and the bathrooms,” Reed said. “We’re even replacing the parking lot. We’re going to add outside lighting so that the parking lot is a safe place at night. A lot of the groups that use our building come in the evenings.”

St. Francis In-The-Fields already has multiple secular ministry partners who use their space, including Alcoholics Anonymous, the Blessing Box free food pantry, the Boys & Girls Club of Boone County, the Caring Center clothing donation organization, gymnastic and dance instruction, yoga, a literacy program, Weight Watchers and a drop box for the Zionsville Lions Club eyeglasses program. The renovation will make that space more usable for those groups and others.

“What we run into sometimes is you can’t use a portion of the building because to get to it, you have to go through a different meeting taking place in a room that connects to it,” Reed said. “That’s part of what will be solved by this expansion and renovation, to make it more user friendly and give us a lot more flexibility in how we use it and who can use it.”

The one area that will not be renovated is the worship space.

“That is gorgeous and it’s in good shape,” Reed said.

Construction is expected to last 12 to 15 months. The $3 million raised in the campaign is expected to cover the majority of the work, allowing the church to renovate without taking on additional debt.

Church leaders said ultimately, the project is about making space for the community as a whole for secular and nonsecular activities.

“We’re open to everybody,” Murphy said. “We want everybody to use the space.”

Reed echoed the sentiment.

“There are so many people who come through our doors who go to other churches,” he said. “They come here for meetings or gatherings or for their kids. It’s a friendly place. Sunday isn’t the only day these buildings should be used.”

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St. Francis In-The-Fields Episcopal Church will undergo a transformational renovation project to create space for the entire community of Zionsville. (Photo by Marney Simon)


An Episcopal sacramental church, St. Francis In-The-Fields embraces a legacy of inclusion, according to The Rev. C. Davies Reed. Episcopal churches allow ​​people of all genders and sexual orientations to serve as bishops, priests and deacons. Laypeople and clergy work together in leadership and governance.

“We have a reputation for being a very friendly and welcoming place,” Reed said. “The Episcopal Church, open is really one of our key words. Whoever shows up at the door gets to come in.”

Cory Murphy, who has been a member of St. Francis In-The-Fields for 10 years, said the community can view the church as a place for all.

“One of the things that is unique about the Episcopalian Church is making sure the place is open for everybody,” Murphy said. “Every Sunday, everybody is welcome, everybody is encouraged no matter race, creed, lifestyle. It’s very open and people who come and join us can see that.”

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