Activity is increasing around the church these days as renovations approach completion. The finishing millwork in the church and chapel will be done this week, including the reinstallation of the altar rails in the chapel and the refitting of the main altar frontispiece into the reredos. The control boards for both the new sound system and the new theatre lighting have been installed up in the balcony.
The front yard remains a mess, however, and the entryways remain blocked by the foundation work for the new ramp. Who knew that building a ramp could become such a costly and complicated process? When the first plan saw the ramp cutting through not only the flower beds that line the outer walls of the narthex, but also the roots of the vines that climb those walls, BRAG issued a change order to save the vines. But that slight dodge changed everything … as the new foundations take on the dimensions of an aircraft carrier!
The lower washrooms await the installation of their sinks and toilets and the creation space will soon receive its millwork, generously designed and discounted by the folks at DIRTT Design. The lower space will have the flexibility to serve the needs of our Sunday School while also providing rentable conference and workshop rooms during the week.
The adjusted construction schedule now extends into the first week of November, with an occupancy permit following (hopefully) the week after that. We are now looking to November 17 or 24 as our likely return dates.
Enmax has disconnected the old electrical service and powered up the new one. The elevator is essentially complete and awaiting approval. The new washrooms are tiled. The church and chapel are now ready with the exception of the finishing millwork (like reattaching the altar rail in the chapel, moving the tabernacle and completing the work on the reredos (the oak paneling in the sanctuary).
While final payment for all the work will be due by the end of the calendar year, our pledges stretch into 2015. So we are arranging some bridge financing with the Anglican Foundation to carry us over until all the pledges have come in. Other than that, we will be incurring no debt—no mortgage, no building loans—for this $1.7 million project. By any standard a remarkable achievement!
The Bishop is waiting for us to confirm a date so he can be with us to bless the new furnishings. We are working on a draft of our opening worship the Sunday we move back into the church. Plans are underway for an Open House in December. We’re almost there.
As people are taking a peek and getting the feel for our new worship space some are curious about how it is going to work exactly. However we want it to work, would be our answer, flexibility being the key concept.
If you examine the positioning of the new, overhead, theatre lighting you will see that the lights are trained on three possible “stage” areas: the centre of the former chancel (where the altar was situated most recently), the new apron stage down in front, and the heart of the labyrinth. These suggest some of the locations where the altar might be placed, or where a performer might perform, with chairs assembled around or in front accordingly.
For worship, however we orient ourselves in the new space, visual unity will be provided by our newly commissioned font, ambo and altar, which will always be placed in proximity to one another, suggesting these three dimensions of our worship life: Baptism, Proclamation and Eucharist.
By the way, the font, ambo and altar are nearing completion and we await their unveiling with growing excitement. The creations of Jeremy Pavka and Matthew Bourree of MMJT Contemporary Design, the dark walnut and bleached maple structures will be a study in form and motion, reflecting the flexibility of the space overall. Which is to say, stunning!
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.
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.