Since acquiring Big Boy, the matter of the wobbly modesty panel has become more pressing. We will need to make a couple of decisions very soon. To expedite the decision process I want to offer a suggestion.
Renovation of the Chancel and Sanctuary can be done in at least three steps. The end result is intended to be a beautiful space that invites and supports the kind of use that we envision at Pilgrim for the next many years.
The sanctuary as it presently stands is very similar in design and function to the original building from a century ago. It was built to host people sitting in pews and hearing music and accompaniment from a glorious pipe organ. Contemporary musical expression in worship involves many more instruments. We want to continue to care for and enjoy the organ, but we also want to make space for other instruments.
At some point as we included a piano in the chancel we changed the south modesty panel so that it could be moved. We have needed to move that panel as we have swapped out pianos and sought the right instrument for the space. We have just secured a marvelous piano which will not only provide gloriously for our worship but will also attract other music to our auditorium.
One of the reasons that this piano is so much more appropriate for our big hall is that it is big. While it fits in the space for the piano, it makes an already tight space even more cramped. We need to expand the space to allow room around the piano and to make room for other instruments.
The most immediate way to make more room is to remove the modesty panel. While it is heavy, it can be moved. But moving it creates other problems.
- If we remove it from where it is there is an exposed part of the riser that is open and ugly and the floor under where the panel is now is not tiled like the rest of the platform.
- If we remove the south panel then the chancel is out of balance with the north panel.
- Without the panel we won’t have a place to hang the pine rope in Advent.
There are a couple of other structural issues that impose themselves on this consideration. One is that the current placement of the choir doesn’t lend itself to being engaged with the musicians, especially with Fred O. Not only are the modesty panels a physical barrier, they pose a psychological one as well. Additionally, the choir doesn’t face the congregation.
The other is that the sanctuary is showing its age. The wood is finished in a style that was very 50’s and doesn’t match the rest of the sanctuary. The carpet is stained and worn and the tiles are cracked. At least with the tile we have a fairly simple and solid alternative. Under the tile is oak flooring.
Considering all of this I am recommending a process in three steps.
Step One: Remove both modesty panels and place them out of the way in the narthex. They won’t really be in the way there and we can replace them in the chancel if we decide we don’t like the change. We will need to craft a small wooden panel to cover the exposed end of the piano riser. All of these changes can easily be undone. If we decide we like them, we can then consider the next steps.
Step Two: Remove the interior pews from the chancel and take out the lowest riser. [The back pews and the higher riser would remain. They form the wall on either side of the chancel and to remove them would be expensive.] Remove the tile from the floor and steps and have the hardwood floors refinished. Refinish the “pickled” woodwork to match the rest of the sanctuary. This would be relatively inexpensive as it doesn’t require new construction, only the refinishing of what is already in place.
Step Three: (if we decide to go forward) would include repainting the sanctuary, replacing carpet, perhaps relocating pews and even moving the lectern and pulpit. This would more dramatically change the design of the room.
We should move quickly on this.