$1 million donation keeps Libertyville church alive

The resignation of having to sell its century-old home to make ends meet has turned into joy for St. Lawrence Episcopal Church in Libertyville with the receipt of a million-dollar donation.

“This donation is unimaginable good news for both the congregation and the community as a whole,” said Reverend Kristin Saylor, rector of the old church in the heart of downtown.

“With the financial freedom this opens up, we are finally able to invest in the ministries that matter most to us, reach out to the community, and share the joy and vitality we have in such abundance,” she added.

The original portion of the deep red brick building at 125 W. Church St. across from Cook Park was built in 1908. But in 2018 the building was put up for sale to pay off a debt and allow the church continue the mission elsewhere.

There was some interest but no serious offers, Saylor said. The process coincided with the coronavirus pandemic, so the timing was not optimal, she added.

Saylor said the church with a congregation of around 80 households struggled with the financial pressure of a mortgage taken out when it pursued an ambitious building project in the early 2000s.


By this time, the parish had outgrown its space and embarked on an expansion that included a new sanctuary, parish hall classrooms and offices, she said.

With the pressure mounting, a member of the congregation who wished to remain anonymous was inspired by his work and motivated to invest in the future of Saint-Laurent, according to Saylor.

The church was taken off the market on April 30.

“Dealing with the reality of mortgage debt was an anxiety-provoking time for the congregation,” said Deborah DeManno, churchwarden. By choosing to let the building go, the church was true to its mission, she added.

“Now it seems our faith has been affirmed and we gratefully move forward with renewed energy and promise,” DeManno said.

To complicate a potential sale, many local families had buried their loved ones’ ashes in the church’s columbarium. Church leaders had to consider whether a buyer, perhaps another church, would be willing to keep the columbarium or find other options, Saylor said.

With that on the table, leaders are eager to rekindle the church’s community presence.

“We’re excited to be able to invest in things other than our mortgage and we’re just starting to imagine who we want to be,” Saylor said.

Jerry B. Hatch