Dean’s Letter: Chancel Remodel

Hello St. Paul’s,

I want to give you an update on the chancel remodeling project, as it’s been in the works for a long time, and I’m sure you are wondering what has happened to it. The chancel, for those who aren’t familiar with Episcopal jargon, is the portion of the church that acts like a stage. In our case it’s the raised area behind the altar rail, where the choir, organ, altar and altar party are positioned.

 It’s been two years since we started on this project, so, first, a little history:

Early 2020: Generous donor promised chairs on condition that we also replace the chancel floor.

Floor behind altar was sagging and in need of work.
Many steps and hazards: sacristy, chancel, chapel not accessible.
Lack of flexibility – pews and choir screens very heavy.
Narrow chancel with only 900 sq feet.

Chapter was enthusiastic about a wholesale remodel.
Generous donor was willing to expand the gift significantly.

We engaged DomusStudio architects – lots of church experience and offices on Olive St.
A committee met via Zoom from fall of 2020 with architects to design the new space. The project expanded to include remodeling the sacristy and then shrank again.

Our consultant on the 525 Olive project, Tom Delaney, graciously offered his services pro bono.

We ended up after many, many conversations with a design that:

Expands the chancel from 900 to 1300 sq feet;
Removes steps and built-ins so that the entire area is flexible;
Includes an ADA-compliant ramp behind the organ to both chapel and chancel;
Puts the chancel on the same level as the sacristy;
Provides the same floor surface throughout chapel, chancel, and sacristy;
Provides good quality lighting;
Upgrades the audiovisual system.

You can view before-and-after drawings and renderings on the video of this letter.

Now it was time to start bringing in other professionals: electricians, contractors, structural engineers, environmental experts, a/v companies (the one we used to install the TV system was no longer suitable), woodworkers etc. The more people involved, the slower the process. It slowed down a lot as we waited for all these professionals to examine the space and come up with designs and estimates.

We went through the permitting phase with the city – very slow due to COVID.

We ran a small fundraising campaign to fund the creation of custom-made choir screens that could be moved by one person.

We met in the early fall of 2021 and reviewed the project budget and timeline. A number of things had changed over the course of the year:
Prices of all materials had increased significantly;
Timelines for ordering materials had stretched due to the supply chain issue;
Some “nice to have” elements had crept into the mainstream of the project and added significantly to the overall cost.

We went through the scope and trimmed it back to what we felt was really needed. We still ended up with a gap of nearly $100,000 between the original generous gift and the new total cost.

As you may know, Chapter has a policy that we do not sign a contract or make a financial commitment unless we know we have the money to pay for the entire project. So we couldn’t make a start on any of the project until we knew where the money was coming from.

At the very end of the year I was able to secure the promise of that additional funding from another generous parishioner.

So where are we today?

The general contractor is reaching out to the various trades to get final, firm prices and to start the procurement process. We know that some of the lighting is caught up in the supply chain delay and there will be a 20 week lead time from when we order the lights. We know that the procurement phase will take at least several weeks. The general contractor is currently estimating a start date for demolition and construction of late March. The very first thing that will be done is to have the organ moved from the chancel down to the nave floor so that it is out of the way of potential damage. This requires specialized professionals and we have that move booked for the end of February. Martin and Gabriel will be able to continue playing and directing, with some ingenuity.

We do plan to continue services in the nave throughout the construction period, and I have asked the team to ensure that we will have a usable chancel floor of some kind, however temporary, for Holy Week and Easter, April 10-17.

It’s been a slow project, but I am excited about the possibilities this remodel will open up for us, as well as keeping our people safer and making ministry more accessible.

See you on Sunday!

Your sister in Christ,

Like this post? Share it with your friends and family...


Leave a Comment


Because of you, we can continue to serve as a center of transformative love, faith and service!

Have questions or need to make changes?
Feel free to contact us, and we will be more than happy to answer all of your questions.