One of the goals of our renovation project is to make St. Stephen’s more welcoming and accessible, both for ourselves and for the wider community. But you wouldn’t know that these days!
Our outdoor entrance to the Canterbury Room door has now been removed, leaving in its place a fenced-off mess hole. We are also aware that the outdoor steps to both the main doors and chapel doors are crumbling, rendering those approaches not just uninviting but also dangerous!
But behind the destruction there is a plan, beyond the mess there is a hope, sort of like life after death. Temporarily, access to the building is limited to the doors to the Memorial Hall, for which a ramp has been built. Alternatively, during the week, the doors off the alleyway are available and there is a doorbell at the east entrance there to contact the office for someone to unlock the door from there (the doorbell at the west door rings only down in the kitchen so it is less likely that someone will hear and respond from there).
Once the renovations are complete we will have a broad new ramp at a low grade of incline from the front of the building to the Canterbury Room door. We will also have repaired or replaced the steps to both the main doors and the chapel doors (though this is not part of the renovations and will have to be financed through our regular budget).
So a way into the building will be created! That is our plan. You might even say, “Where there is a way, there is a will”. In the meantime we must endure a little short-term pain for a long-term gain.
It is interesting how, the closer we get to completion, an entirely new set of questions, challenges and opportunities presents itself. For instance, how ought we officially to open the new space?
The opening date, not surprisingly, is being pushed back now to early November. While the church itself should be ready before that, the elevator, ramp, washrooms and creation space will take a little longer … and we would like to reclaim those spaces all at once.
When we do move back we will need the bishop to bless the new altar, ambo and font before we can put them to use, so an ecclesiastical service would be necessary, and likely not on a Sunday morning (as the bishop is already booked on Sundays well into 2014). The Diocese would be invited and we would offer tours and hospitality to our guests and visitors.
Then there would be our first Sunday worshiping back in the church, which could be November 10 or 17. We would want to arrange the seating to showcase the new and flexible possibilities, so some thought needs to go into that. And we would provide the opportunity for our members to walk around and become familiar with our new space, perhaps even as part of our liturgy.
Then, a short while later, we will want to invite the wider community—our immediate neighbours, friends of the parish, performing arts groups, government representatives, plus all the various trades and industries that contributed to the renovation—to see for themselves the possibilities of our new space as a cultural hub and gathering place for the community.
This may become the Grand Opening that never ends.
Our Building Renewal Action Group (BRAG) continues to work at the Art of the Possible, trying to manage what remains of the project without incurring any debt. Generous donations continue coming in, which is very encouraging, but still we continue to remove things from our To Do list to place them on our Wish List.
We now have a clearer idea of when the renovations will be completed. The church itself might well be ready for occupancy by the end of September … except, that is, for the delivery of the new chairs, which is now slated for the end of October! The elevator, lower washrooms, and Creation Space (that will house our Sunday School) are unlikely to be completed before the end of October as well. So it now looks like an early November opening.
This allows us to plan a number of special events. The Bishop must be called upon to bless the new altar, ambo, and font before they can be put to use. Then we will have our first Sunday services in the new space. And then we will have a public Grand Opening where we show off our new facilities to the wider community. So lots to look forward to!
Our entrance foyer is now crowded with the massive metal components of an enormous three-dimensional puzzle that will become our elevator! The flooring is being laid in the church this week, including the labyrinth inset—for which a generous donor has stepped forward! The downstairs washrooms are taking shape, along with electrical improvements in the undercroft. The “Creation Space” that will house our Sunday children’s program is beginning to look like a serviceable room and, thanks to another generous donor, the Excellent Adventure will now have furnishings!
Work is now set to begin on the outdoor ramp that will lead up from the outside corner of the church to the Canterbury Room door. That work was held up when we realized that the original plan would have sacrificed the ivy growing on the west side of the church. It was not inexpensive to come up with an alternative plan and then issue a change order, but we felt it was worth it because of the aesthetic value of the ivy.
The new altar, ambo and font are also nearing completion, with a new matching cross, paschal candle and processional torches to be included as part of the package. The drawings were stunning so we cannot wait to see the finished product. The Bishop has been invited to hold several possible dates for the blessing of these sacred items, as is required before they can be put to use.