Two major decisions were made this past week. Both were difficult decisions because of their central importance to how we will worship in the newly renovated St. Stephen’s. But it is very exciting!
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.
Do to the renovation process we will not be posting recorded versions of the sermons again until after the renovations are complete. Sorry for the inconvenience.
In recent weeks, since the renovation has started, we have not just been rebuilding our buildings, we have been rebuilding our community.
For two weeks Bob Beaty led work teams to shorten the pews and prepare them for sale. The job was massive, there being over forty pews to do, and the team efforts were herculean, as they gathered to detach kneelers and book racks, saw through solid oak, re-fit ends and supports, tap shims into place, and sand the edges of our new saleable pews.
Church members then found themselves fielding interviewers’ questions on radio and television as the word got out and the world responded with interest and even fascination. Why were we selling off our pews?! We have received calls and emails from across the country, many congratulating us on our vision and courage.
Then Nik Binder oversaw the public sale as our sales crew welcomed the community who came through the doors and bought everything in sight! We took in almost $45,000 in that sale. But the more important benefits were a little less tangible: we got to tell our story of a church refitting itself for a new place in the world; and we got to rediscover the rich blessings of our fellowship together in the Body of Christ!
Thanks to all who lent a helping hand!