July 17, 2020
The Elders dreamed some big dreams this week, and we wanted to draw you into our collective imaginings.
It began with the Admin Team’s recommendations that we use this fallow time while the building is largely uninhabited to get some things done. We’ve been talking for decades about making our front entrance less formidable and more welcoming, and more recently, we’ve talked about the need to install architectural glass both in front of some dangerously unprotected windows (in front of the stairs at the front of the sanctuary) and over the well, getting rid of the current railing around it and opening up that side area to be more functional space for small groups.
To do these things, we will need to call Old First’s first virtual congregational meeting(!) on August 9 to approve the expense of the architectural drawings for the projects. Consider this your invitation—with the “official announcement” happening during our Zoom-worship this Sunday.
The Admin Team also encouraged us to think about projects which will come out of the church’s general maintenance/operating budget, like replacing the social hall flooring and resurfacing the kitchen floor. Other relatively inexpensive ideas like breaking through the wall between the nursery and the choir room to provide more welcoming space for our youngest kids and families, and the installation of an attic exhaust fan in the sanctuary to decrease air conditioning costs and help provide more ventilation in the sanctuary (suddenly about more than our physical comfort and hvac efficiency, air circulation will be important in our ability to gather safely as a congregation!).
Buoyed by these ideas which represent Old First’s commitment to not just returning to but improving the space in ways which will serve us and all our stakeholders going forward, the Elders started getting even more expansive. What, we wondered, about the sanctuary?
Those of you who have been around Old First for a while will remember that we had a capital campaign in 2014 that hoped-for three phases of capital improvements.
Phase 1 was completed successfully, taking care of roofs and soffits, windows, the sound system, lighting and elevator upgrade.
Phase 2 has turned into the redevelopment of the 4th Street side of the property to provide permanent, supportive housing for formerly homeless folks as well as new office and meeting space for the church.
Phase 3 was the Sanctuary renovation — repainting, re-configuring the chancel for maximum flexibility and accessibility, new floor that will also improve the acoustics.
You are correct: we did not get to Phase III, the phase that would both invigorate our worship life and make us a much more attractive venue for outside performance organizations.
And last Monday, the elders wondered if maybe…we could? With our 300th Anniversary only seven years away, what if we planned now to revitalize our whole space? Do we have the resources as a congregation in this most-precarious-seeming time to take a bold step and finish what we started? Old First has a long history of stepping out in faith and taking on projects which reflect our commitment to ongoing, expanding ministry. How bold would it be to start this renewal now, while we are not physically able to be together? How fun, if when we get to come back, the Sanctuary was all redone and beautiful?
You are correct: it will take money. So we’ve asked for the Admin Team to get us some estimates. And we want to talk with you all about your reactions to our dreams for Old First’s future, right now, while we are not even able to see one another in person. During this time, when we value—perhaps more than ever—our congregation and our connections to each other and to our world, we invite you to see visions and dream dreams.
In faith, hope, and always love,
Julie Steiner and Bobbie Benjamin for the Elders