Building Our Future

What’s this about?

Growing and reaching out

Ascension Rectory, circa 1955

Ascension Rectory, circa 1955


he Church of the Ascension — 175 years old and the first church built on Fifth Avenue — is seeking funds for the renovation of its historic rectory. Adjacent to the church itself, the newly renovated rectory is an essential element in our forward-looking plans for growing and reaching out to the community around us.

A new nursery school, La Petite École, is currently under contract and will soon open in the rectory’s ground floor. The first floor parlor and dining room will serve as event and meeting spaces for the parish and community groups when final renovations are completed. Ascension’s new rector, Elizabeth G. Maxwell, and parish leadership, envision an expansion of our role as a community center for education, outreach, and service to individuals and neighborhood groups. Our heritage as the “Church of the Open Door” serves as our inspiration and model for the future.

Tell me more!

Who are we?

The Rev. Elizabeth Maxwell, Ascension's Twelfth Rector

The Rev. Elizabeth Maxwell, Ascension’s Twelfth Rector


scension is a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive community of people who gather to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, to give praise and thanks to God through the beauty of worship, and to love and serve God and our neighbors. Our landmark church, a beautiful inspirational place where we nourish our spiritual lives, is however only one part of our identity. Following the most positive Christian traditions, our outreach mission includes not only worship, but cultural and artistic events, social activism, community concerns, and service-oriented programs.

The Rev. Elizabeth G. Maxwell (Mother Liz) joined Ascension in 2015 and is the first woman rector in the parish’s nearly two-century history. Her career as a priest has been particularly concentrated in service programs, and her inspirational ideas as well as her organizational skills are revitalizing our membership and strategic planning for the future.

Our artistic heritage

rectory first floor, before repairsOur church building is one of the gems of New York City architecture and is a designated historic landmark. Originally designed by architect Richard Upjohn, and begun in 1840, it was completed the following year. The sanctuary and chancel were renovated in the 1880s by McKim, Mead, and White, and John La Farge was commissioned to paint the huge central mural that is often considered a masterpiece of American painting. Sculptures above the altar are by Louis St. Gaudens, and stained glass windows are by La Farge, Tiffany, and Maitland Armstrong. The Manton Memorial Organ, specifically designed and built in France by Pascal Quoirin for Ascension, was the result of a special gift in 2007 by the Manton Foundation to honor the memory of Sir Edwin and Lady Manton, active parishioners for over fifty years. It attests to Ascension’s long cultivation of musical quality in both its worship services and its frequent concert series.

How will the money be used?

image of rectory before repair work
rectory interior before repairs

In 2013, it became apparent that Ascension’s rectory, which dates from the 1840s, would require complete overhaul before it could continue to be used as a residence for the parish’s rector. The once elegant five-story townhouse needed extensive renovations to consolidate and modernize the structure and its facilities. Furthermore, the parish leadership decided to remodel the lower floors so that they could be used for parish and community events as well as income-producing activities.

In order to undertake this work immediately, Ascension borrowed $800,000 from an endowment fund that is designated for maintenance expenses. As Ascension’s endowment funds serve as an essential source of annual income for the parish and its activities, it is now of vital importance to rebuild this fund.

How is this different from the annual stewardship campaign?

interior of rectory residence during repairsAscension depends on the annual pledges of its parish members to support the operating budget. The 175th Anniversary Capital Campaign is an additional fundraising project for specific long-term needs, such as the rectory renovation. We are asking for your participation in this campaign in addition to your annual pledge — but not instead of it! For this reason, your pledge to the Capital Campaign should be viewed as a three-year commitment to help us repay our loans for the rectory.

Why now?

first floor of rectory, after repairsWith the rebuilt endowment and the new income potential from the renovated rectory, Ascension will enjoy a strengthened financial foundation for the future. Stable finances are the groundwork for our plans to broaden our outreach to the surrounding community and enrich the lives of those who join us for spiritual, cultural, or service-oriented activities.

What’s next?

Final rectory renovations

new first floor meeting space, looking over rear garden


hile the overall renovation of the rectory has been completed, additional alterations to the front entrance must still be made to provide for a dedicated entrance to the new first floor public spaces. These final touches are aimed at making the first floor spaces available for general parish use and as a potential source of income.

How can I help?

a repaired skylightYou can help us by making a gift to support Ascension’s rectory renovation project through the 175th Anniversary Capital Campaign. Our goal is to raise $700,000, and we are seeking pledges payable over a three-year period. Your investment in our buildings will help to establish a firm financial foundation so that Ascension can pursue its mission of worship, service, and outreach.

You may make your capital campaign pledge by printing out this pledge form, filling out both sides, and returning the first half to the address on the form, retaining the second half for your records. And the clergy and capital campaign committee members will be delighted to visit with you to discuss your gift and methods of giving. We hold you in prayer as you consider this historic opportunity to participate in the building of God’s Kingdom on Fifth Avenue and beyond.

— Parish & Capital Campaign Leadership
The Rev. Elizabeth G. Maxwell, Rector
David Cholcher, Warden
Maurice Seaton, Warden
Barbara Burns and Isabel Spencer,
Capital Campaign Co-Chairs

The Church of the Ascension
12 West 11th Street
New York, NY 10011
Tel: 212 254 8620