Next week our renovations wrap up, with only a few eleventh hour deadlines still to be met. These include the arrival of the new chairs (slated for Monday or Tuesday), the replacement of all the light bulbs in the church and chapel (including one defective spotlight), the installation of the new cabinets in the sacristy, and the completion of the worship accessories (processional cross and torches).
Two worship services will help us celebrate and reoccupy our new space. The first is the Blessing of the Furnishings—our new font, ambo and altar—on Thursday, November 21, at 7:30 p.m. The Bishop will be present to lead us in this dramatic spot-lit service as we move in procession through the church, ending in a large circle around the altar for communion. A wine and cheese reception will follow, with BRAG members available to lead guided tours through the renovated parts of our building.
Then on Sunday, November 24, at 10:30 a.m. we will celebrate “The Return of the Exiles” as our combined Sunday morning congregations process up from the lower Memorial Hall into our new church! The service will include our first baptism using the new font and a novel arrangement of chairs to help us gather in a new way. The coffee hour that follows will take place in the church itself, with BRAG members available again for guided tours.
Worshipers this Sunday will be unable to wander the church. The flooring in the narthex and in the hallways will have received their protective sealant so those areas will be out-of-bounds. Which is too bad. Because the recent progress has been stunning.
The finishing touches have been applied to the church and chapel, including the reinstallation of the altar rails in the chapel and the fitting of the old altar frontispiece into the reredos. Oak panels have been inserted where the curtains used to hang and the tabernacle has been moved forward to a more convenient location in the chancel.
Downstairs the washrooms have received all their fixtures, and the millwork has been installed in the Creation Space (the former Bethlehem and Nazareth Rooms). The connecting ramp to the lower Memorial Hall has been fitted with handrails (not so attractive perhaps, but mandatory).
Outdoors, the concrete for the ramp will have been poured by this weekend, making the church accessible from the street once again, and the damaged front steps are being repaired.
Finally, the new font, ambo and altar have arrived, though they will remain veiled until the opening. The accessories—a refurbished processional cross, a new paschal stand, and two new processional torches—will be completed by the end of next week.
Behind closed doors our new world is taking shape.
Renovation Corner #’s
As we prepare to close the file on the renovations here are some numbers you might find interesting:
10 The number of years we have been studying what to do with our ageing buildings.
3 The number of years the Building Renewal Action Group (BRAG) has been meeting to plan and coordinate the renovation of our church buildings.
9 The number of BRAG members who have carried out the project.
4.5 The estimated cost (in millions of dollars) of the original vision for the renovation of our church buildings.
1.1 The budget (in millions of dollars) for our renovations based on a feasibility study of what the congregation could actually afford.
1.75 The actual cost (in millions of dollars) by the end of the project.
350 The amount (in thousands of dollars) of public monies received, including both federal and provincial grants.
30 The amount (in thousands of dollars) of church monies received, including from the Diocese of Calgary and the Anglican Foundation.
1.3 The amount (in millions of dollars) received through the gifts, pledges and bequests of church members and friends.
112 The amount (in thousands of dollars) of outstanding pledges due to be collected in 2014 and 2015.
100 The amount (in thousands of dollars) of bridge financing required to cover the outstanding pledges.
0 The amount of any long-term mortgage of building loans relating to the renovation.
We have our dates! We expect to see the completion of the renovations within the first week in November, followed by our occupancy permit by November 15. This means we can begin moving back into our church, chapel and creation space (the former Nazareth and Bethlehem Rooms) the weekend of the 17th.
Here are some dates to mark on your calendar:
Moving Day. Sunday, November 17, 12 noon to 2 p.m. Sign-up sheets will appear the next few weeks for Movers, Fixers, Cleaners and Feeders to help us settle back into our renovated space. A true community effort.
Blessing of the New Furnishings. Thursday, November 21, at 7:30 p.m. It is the Bishop’s prerogative to bless new church furnishings. So Bishop Greg Kerr-Wilson will be with us in a unique service that will see our new altar, font and ambo blessed and set to use. A beautiful spot-lit ceremony not to be missed.
First Sunday Service. Sunday, November 24, at 10:30 a.m. There will be no 8 a.m. service that morning as we all assemble down in the lower hall to process together into our new, fully-functional worship space. Prepare to be amazed.
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.
This week it is fair to say we are almost there. Two weeks to completion, then a week or two for signing off and receiving an occupancy permit from the city, then we’re back in business.
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.
It is interesting how, the closer we get to completion, an entirely new set of questions, challenges and opportunities presents itself. For instance, how ought we officially to open the new space?
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.
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!