It’s not unusual for annual meetings at Church of the Holy Communion to erupt in applause. This time it was loud and sustained as Sandy announced first the capital campaign results and then that a family has stepped up to give an additional $750,000 as a lead gift for work in the Nave.
“This is absolutely outstanding! Something we could never have hoped or dreamed of,” Sandy told the several hundred parishioners at the meeting on Sunday, January 22.
“In order to start using the $750,000 for the Nave, we need to close the gap on our $7 million capital-campaign goal. We want to finish one project before we start another.”
By 10 a.m. the next day, when the campaign pledge cards were tallied, the total topped $6.7 million - up more than $200,000 from the Friday before -- a more than gentle assurance that the plan to improve Holy Communion – the largest in the church’s nearly 70-year history – is well-grounded and on its way.
When Carter Gammill asked when the work will be done, every head in the room turned back to Sandy.
The church has a master plan for the projects, Sandy said. “But that is not something you can give a contractor and have them build it.”
Between now and April, the Vestry will sign a contract with an architect. It will form committees to oversee the various stages of work. And it will listen to how the members envision using the new ministry areas.
In total, it will take about six months to design the spaces and convert the architects’ renderings to construction documents.
“Please know we have an architectural process we have to go through before we can start to swing sledgehammers, tempting as that might be,” Sandy said.
The largest part of the church’s $7 million campaign is the $5 million it will take to gut Blaisdell and Greenwood, and then rebuild -- starting with a two-story central-reception area and atrium. Ministry spaces and meeting rooms will fan off the atrium. Besides offering an easy-to-identify entrance, the atrium will add grandeur to buildings constructed soon after the congregation put its stake in the ground at Perkins and Walnut Grove in the late 1940s.
The campaign also includes $1 million for the church’s portion of the $19 million wellness center it will share with St. Mary’s Episcopal School, plus $1 million replace the church’s central heating and air conditioning.
Two days after the annual meeting, architects from Fleming began advising the Vestry on parts of the project that could be done soon and which portions will be better done simultaneously with St. Mary’s.
Demolition of the gym, for instance, and work to the back-parking lot will likely wait until the wellness center project is ready to proceed.
Once the $7 million is raised, Sandy says the church hopes to proceed with “one construction season instead of many seasons” on the work.
“I am very confident we will be looking at $7 million in the rearview mirror and that the entire $750,000 will be used for the Nave,” he said.
A plaque in the Narthex will eventually honor the donor family for the Nave gift. For now, its gift challenges the congregation to consider changes in the Nave that would significantly improve acoustics, lighting and flexibility of space. The changes are estimated on the high end at $3 million.
The initial master plan included work in the Nave. But because early responses were mixed, the Vestry decided to revisit the project when the $7 million was raised.
The lead gift adds a measure of confidence that Nave improvements are possible now too.
As a show of how widely the weight of the $7 million campaign has been carried, Sandy had members stand at the Annual Meeting who’ve played any role at all.
Nearly a tenth of the room stood, including a new generation of church leaders.
Sandy noted the new faces “setting out to make their mark,” adding that his peers in ministry across the nation “wish they had a group of young leaders saying ‘this is my church.’ I am so grateful.”
To help people think through possible improvements in the Nave, Sandy will offer a three-week class in liturgical design on Sunday mornings, beginning April 23. Public feedback sessions will follow.
“We’re going to look at why we design worship spaces the way we do, and then we will have listening sessions. Then we will recontract with the designer to help us carry that forward. And we will provide signposts - mile markers - as we go,” he said, but also noted that the church, which has no debt, is not planning to incur long-term debt for any of these projects.
“We are committed to doing this right and listening well,” he said, but he also said that “nothing we do is going to please everybody.
“When there are opportunities for feedback, please come. Please offer your feedback. Serve on committees and trust your fellow parishioners. This is an opportunity our church has never had before and won’t have again for a very, very long time.”