“ONWARD, CHRISTIAN PILGRIMS!”
After years of dreaming, it’s suddenly happening all around us: construction has begun! The tiles are coming up, the pews are coming down, and asbestos is coming out, and we are going out of the Sanctuary today, not to return until we enter into the New Jerusalem: our renewed worship space. But we humans are creatures of habit; we rely on the known, the routine to allow us to function in the world. A temporary move can be a joyful time of congregational renewal, as the structures of routine are removed, and the community draws closer to one another, on pilgrimage into the unknown. For other congregations, the stress of the unknown shortens their patience with one another, as they struggle to make do in marginal worship environments with uncomfortable chairs, bad acoustics and makeshift liturgy.
Doubtless, in our temporary home, we will struggle. The chairs are uncomfortable, the acoustics may well be bad, and there will be days when chaos seems to triumph over order. But it is we ourselves that will decide whether we find in the Lower Hall a joyful time of renewal or a grim time of shortened tempers with ourselves and one another. We can choose the better way, by being gentle with ourselves, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, finding humour in mistakes, welcoming the God of creative chaos. And if we are intentional in this choice, we will find that this is who we really are, and we will be blessed.
Cantaré Children’s Choir
While church renovations begin to disrupt daily life all around us, we are already beginning to harvest the anticipated results.
This summer the Cantaré Children’s Choir will be taking up residence in our midst. Cantaré is a well-known and well-respected choral program led by Catherine Glasser-Climie. One hundred and fifty children, ages six through eighteen, gather each week to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of music, to learn the principles of diversity, respect and cooperation, and to rehearse for award-winning performances here in Alberta and across the country.
For the moment, Cantaré will house their administration in our tower office (aka, the former women’s choir room, Jeff’s office, and presently the counters’ room) and will begin bi-weekly rehearsals in our worship space. Once the renovation dust has settled, they will move to the upper studio in the Memorial Hall (where our church offices used to be, years ago) above the artists’ studios already well employed on the main floor. As we move into the fall season choral concerts will be offered in the church, bringing the public into our lively facilities and delighting them with God’s gift of song.
This is precisely the sort of relationship we had hoped to develop with the wider community through our renovated facilities. With fully accessible entrances and washrooms, theatre lighting, an improved sound system, and an evocatively sacred space, St. Stephen’s is taking its first steps toward becoming a cultural hub in the City.
To learn more about Cantaré visit their website: www.cantarechildrenschoir.homestead.com.
This week our renovations are all about chairs and pews. Bob Beaty is leading a team to begin dismantling the pews and preparing them for sale. A carpenter will cut them down to 3,4,5 and 6-foot lengths, and replace the end pieces. Then on Saturday, June 1, we will welcome the public for a massive sale. We will consider advance orders from church member (though prices have not yet been set).
BRAG members continue to study the options for chairs. They will be wood framed with upholstered seats and backs and each chair will have a kneeler. That much we know. But book racks diminish our ability to stack the chairs, so are we ready to worship bookless? The point of having chairs is to increase flexibility in our use of the nave area which requires the possibility of removing chairs that are not needed. Non-stackable chairs would have nowhere to go when they are not needed. So there is still more work to be done on this.
Meanwhile Brag is considering whether or not to include a labyrinth in the flooring of the nave. This would provide us with an important design feature would also serve for spiritual practice (like our weekly meditation group). But there is no provision for it under the budget, so it would have to either come from new donations or from our contingency fund.
Last week we received the word we were waiting for: the Province has granted us $125,000 from the Community Facility Enhancement Program to help make our buildings more accessible to the public. We now have the funds to complete the full scope of work we had originally envisioned for our renovations.
Next week our contractor, Karson Builders, will oversee the removal of asbestos from our old boiler room and from floor tiles and walls where it has been found. This could take several weeks to accomplish. Then the real work begins.