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.
As the end of the renovations comes into view (giving thanks to God for the absence of dust, noise and inconvenience) we find ourselves facing a Day of Reckoning. How much work remains, and how much money do we have to accomplish it?
The truly amazing fact is that, at every step along the way, as some doors have closed—like the windows we were going cut in the narthex, looking into the church—others have opened—like the sacristy renovations.
But now it also becomes clear that some features of our original plan simply remain out of reach. So our Excellent Adventure program will have a new and improved location (in the old Bethlehem and Nazareth rooms) but it will not have any chairs and tables, sinks or countertops! Similarly our new chapel will not have room dividers to close it off from the main church (though we have a stunning plan that involves some of our old stained glass windows).
If anyone wonders if perhaps our Open Doors campaign (to raise funds for the project) has ended, it has not. It has remained active throughout the renovations for any who want to make a donation toward the project’s completion. And it has never been more necessary than now. Thanks as always for your incredible generosity!
We are preparing a Donor Appreciation plaque to hang in our narthex. We will be displaying draft copies in the Memorial Hall over the next few weeks and sending out a copy electronically by email. Your help is needed in one of three ways:
- If you are a donor, please ensure your name is on the list;
- if you are a donor, and your name appears on the list, please confirm the spelling and any other details;
- if you were not a donor, but would like to become one (and have your name on the list) please make a donation to “St. Stephen’s Church” (marked “Open Doors Campaign”) by September 15th.
As renovations have continued, a number of features of the original plan have had to be dropped due to budgetary restraints. So we have developed a Wish List of the items that would bring back some of the elements of our original vision. These include (along with an estimated cost):
- completion of sacristy renovation (to include washroom): $20,000
- furniture for Creation Space (Sunday School & Conference Room): $5,000
- organ upgrades: $50,000
- professional performance-standard piano: $50,000
- padded individual kneeling cushions: $2,500.
If you are interested in donating any of these items, please speak to a member of Corporation or BRAG.
Most weeks meeting for worship down in the lower Memorial Hall seems like a major inconvenience. But it is an excellent opportunity to prepare ourselves for the flexibility the new space will afford us when the renovations are completed upstairs.
When we set up the temporary arrangement in the hall we deliberately chose a semi-circle, with the chairs gathered around the altar and lectern. This allows everyone to be closer to the front, but also closer to one another. It removes the great distance between priest and people that is found in more traditional arrangements. In fact, now the priest sits among the people and simply steps forward to the lectern or altar when it is time to do so.
This arrangement says a number of things about who we are as a faith community. First, it suggests that God is in our midst, rather than somewhere “up there” at the front. Second, it places all God’s people on the same level, as indeed we are. Third, it identifies the entire space—one could say, by extension, the whole world—as sacred and accessible to everyone, not just to a chosen few.
It may appear that we are simply putting in time while updating our worship space. In fact, we are updating the entire way we think about worship. Our temporary set-up downstairs allows us to explore this new understanding and prepare ourselves for taking it with us when we go back upstairs.