First, let’s acknowledge and celebrate the success of our capital campaign! The sacrificial giving of all who’ve pledged financial support to the renovation – now 65 pledges totaling $1,060,137 – is truly inspiring, and brings us ever closer to finally beginning the vital work on the Sanctuary. Thank you!
My report is meant to be both practical and aspirational, so I’ll start with the practical by updating you on recent developments, which are something of a mixed bag:
As we requested, the city has extended our building permit to December 6, 2021.
We expect FORMA’s price for Part I work by Friday, May 28th. Cost estimating has been greatly complicated by building material shortages and steep price hikes.
Even after raising over $1 million, we need a bridge loan from the diocese to sign a construction contract with FORMA. We’ll request an expedited review of our application, but since multiple committees are involved, it will take at least two months.
This requirement will delay the start of construction until late July or August, at the earliest. Though later than we’d planned, we can still start work in late summer, or even the fall, without much greater risk due to weather. It’s disappointing, but not a major setback.
This delay gives us time to address several other issues, like temporary worship space, moving out of the Sanctuary, the old organ, and storage.
We’ve asked KMB Architects for a fee proposal and timeline to finish design of Part II’s interior remodel. They will start with a few parish meetings to get our input on how the space can function and look better. Called “programming,” this work will help KMB develop the best design solutions for our budget.
Once complete, Part II design plans must also be reviewed and approved by the diocese. (Part I plans do not, as they relate only to building repairs and safety.)
Our goal is to finish Part II design and get the needed approvals in time to begin that work almost immediately after Part I construction ends, preferably later this year. If for some reason that can’t happen, it’s conceivable we’ll come back into a dry, safe Sanctuary for worship during the interim, and start the remodel work in 2022.
I’ll be leading a building tour for new Vestry members, possibly with a climb up to the roof, on a weekday afternoon in June. Let me know if you’d be interested in joining us.
Lastly, remember that large-scale renovations are often hard to predict and usually include a few surprises. Plans must be flexible to account for unknowns, adapt to moving targets, and accept those things beyond our control. Despite all these changes, we’re making progress, moving onward together.
ON AUDACITY & TRUST
On the more aspirational side, I’d like to share what I believe may be a deeper meaning of this renovation centered on two words that can truly change things – audacity and trust. Let me give you some examples:
In 1861, work on the U.S. Capitol dome, then half-finished, was halted by the Civil War. Congress canceled construction contracts. Iron workers, fearing loss or damage to the cast iron meant for the new dome, continued to work without pay. In 1862, Congress renewed construction. A year later, Abraham Lincoln remarked, “If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.” Amid war, the dome was completed.
In May 1941, during the last days of the Blitz, German bombs fell on Westminster Palace, obliterating the chamber of the House of Commons. Two year later, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, speaking in the House of Lords to reconstruct the Commons chamber, said “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” He urged the chamber be “restored in all essentials to its old form, convenience and dignity,” believing its rectangular shape with opposing sides, one of which the party in government occupied, the other occupied by the opposition party, to be symbolic of the strength and endurance of the British parliamentary system.
The book Washington’s Audacious State Capitol and Its Builders tells the story of how a relatively young, geographically remote Western state, population barely 800,000, conceived of, designed and built perhaps the greatest example of the short-lived “City Beautiful” movement in American architecture. The capitol, completed in 1927, was built upon the foundations and basement of an earlier design that was canceled by the depression of 1897. From this seeming defeat rose a thoroughly reimagined capitol plan, a “western Acropolis” of six buildings (five were built) in a park-like, campus setting rather than a single domed structure. While never fully realized, Washington State’s Capitol Campus is unsurpassed among U.S. state capitols in its scenic beauty.
A few blocks from Washington’s state capitol stands another audacious building, the Sanctuary of St. John’s Episcopal Church. In 1957, eight years after building a Tudor-style Parish House, the congregation opened this monumental house of worship. As if erecting two new buildings within a decade wasn’t audacious enough, the sheer scale of the Sanctuary, its precast concrete construction, French-made stained glass, and rectilinear, Modernist style, were bold expressions of the congregation’s post-WWII faith and values. This building symbolized their passion for sharing the good news and love of the resurrected Christ. In all its glory and flaws, it is their audacious gift to us.
After years of prayer and planning, and now amid a global pandemic, we are attempting the audacious again. Replacing the roof preserves the building, and fortifying the structure against earthquakes makes it safer, but I envision this renovation as much more than a simple repair job or even an homage to the past.
It’s a bold and hope-filled statement about the future of St. John’s | San Juan as a parish, a community transformed by the love of Jesus Christ.
Lincoln and Churchill saw their respective buildings not simply as structures, but as symbols of trust that shaped the people who engaged with them. Reimagining our mid 1950s structure will both shape and support our 21st-century mission of hospitality, openness, inclusivity and welcome to the community.
Together, we’re building and renewing a community of trust in God’s unending love and abundance. This can be our gift to the St. John’s | San Juan of the future.
Glory and majesty attend you, O God: strength and beauty are in your sanctuary. -Psalm 96:6