St. Stephen’s offers our own translations of the assigned Sunday readings (from the Revised Common Lectionary) that speak to the open and inclusive love of God for all people, guided by the best contemporary English translations of the Bible and our study of the biblical texts in their original languages Click here for Inclusive Lectionary
Right from the start our Building Renewal Action Group (BRAG) has committed itself to managing our renovation project to be debt-free. That meant a decision in principle that we would curtail the scope of the project before borrowing money for its completion. That decision became real this week when two elements of the original design had to be dropped from our plans.
One is the windows that were to open from the narthex (entrance foyer) into the church itself. The idea was to open up the space as much as possible to those who were entering the building, making the worship space visibly accessible to worshipers and visitors alike. But it turns out that the walls in which the windows would be cut contain a low concentration of asbestos, and removing that asbestos would add $10,000 to an otherwise straightforward operation. So for the moment, the windows are gone.
Gone as well is the millwork—the cupboards and counters—we were to install downstairs in the former Nazareth and Bethlehem rooms. Both rooms were being renovated with flexibility in mind, useful both to our nursery and Sunday school programs and to community groups seeking meeting space. The millwork was therefore to accommodate storage and utility for these various uses. But our contingency fund has been eroding so quickly due to hazardous materials removal that we decided to finish the room for use now but leave the details for a later date.
Right from the start BRAG members have said, “If we get the chairs wrong, the whole project could be compromised!” So for the last month we have been considering three makes and models of chair to replace the pews. The chairs had to be comfortable, attractive, sturdy yet stackable, and not too pricey. So we have selected a model from Imperial Woodworks in Waco, Texas (No. 87 Wood Frame Chair, on their website). It features upholstered seat and back, a rear book rack, kneelers (for the chapel chairs) and it is easily stackable. We will also be commissioning kneeler cushions for those in the main church who choose to kneel.
We have also chosen a design for the new altar, ambo, and font. Jeremy and Matt at MMJT Contemporary have come up with an exquisite design concept for the three pieces that will attract the eye and, placed in proximity to one other, form a focal point for our worship in the new space. Visit their website to see for yourself the stunning work they do.
As the painting of the church continues, a startling new look for our worship space begins to emerge—which is light, open, and surprisingly large! Some have asked why we are painting over the beams and the wood panelling. The thinking is this: allow the eye to be guided to the architectural details that define the space, namely, the stained glass windows and the carved oak reredos up in the sanctuary. The overhead beams are not solid wood to begin with, but merely wood cladding, and the panelling that surrounds the room is not of a great quality, so neither the beams nor the panelling could be called architectural features. In the new space it will be the windows and the reredos that deservedly “pop” to the eye.
We are also in the process of considering two design proposals for the new altar, ambo and font, both of them stunning, and very different from one another. One set takes us in the direction of clean, light and ethereal, the other in the direction of stable, durable and soulful. An ambo, by the way, is a lectern that serves as both a reading stand and a pulpit—a single point from which we hear God’s word. The three pieces together will form the heart and the focus of our new space, wherever they get placed in the room.
This week we watched the concrete elevator shaft being poured, bit at a time, raising it finally to the level of the third floor. The interior walls have been checked for hazardous materials and prepared for the day when they will be cut open as entry points to the elevator on each floor. When that happens the office wing will become inaccessible for a few days.
The church itself has been both prepped and painted (to stunning effect!), a laborious task that required everything be wrapped in tape and plastic, including the overhanging lights. Scaffolding has been set up to accomplish this, which also allowed us to remove the large speaker that overhangs the chancel steps. (This makes way for our new and slimmer speakers—called “line arrays”— that will be affixed to the walls at each side of the chancel and point the sound to the listeners, rather than fill the room with sound.)
The pulpit, which at this writing has not yet been sold, has been dismantled and moved down into the memorial hall for temporary storage. No one could bear the thought of it simply being cut up, so we await a buyer, someone who might like the idea of their own elevated soapbox.