Friday, April 13, 2007

Pews, your days are numbered

Since March 12, a remodeling task force has been meeting to study ways of improving the church sanctuary and entryway. The basic ideas behind the remodel, and the membership of the group, came from Nick with input from the elder board. Kirk Sherrell, Bob Shaw, Tom Hight, Katrina Mendenhall, Jeremy McAninch, Leon Rennells, and Jean Imholte are on the task force and have been gathering suggestions and ideas from the congregation. Since my dad is the elder board representative on the group, I interviewed him today about the progress so far.

Doing nothing is a very poor option; the sanctuary carpeting is deteriorated, and the roofing, almost 30 years old, is already letting some small leaks through around the steeple. But just replacing worn-out materials does nothing to address flaws that hurt the sanctuary's usefulness.

"Over time, the church has changed," Tom said. "The demographics of our church are young families, primarily. It's not really representative of who we are. And the platform area really limits what we can do as far as performance arts for ministry support."

So far, a clear majority of the feedback favors upgrading both the functionality and appearance of the sanctuary. The single biggest issue is seating: immovable pews not only project a churchy attitude, they close off options for any use of the room besides traditional services. With a fully carpeted floor and moveable chairs, we could set up tables for a conference or clear the space for youth events. My dad visited Northlake Baptist, where they have been using chairs for five years, and got a good report: people say the chairs are more comfortable and have responded well.

Because it is likely that no walls will be moved, the biggest proposed structural changes are those aimed at the stage. This Sunday and Monday, the task force will be meeting with people involved in worship, drama, and other up-front activities, to get their recommendations. The main goal is to enlarge the platform itself and give musicians and performers more clear space to work in. Money is already budgeted to buy a stronger, higher-resolution projector and mount it from the ceiling, freeing up still more space and making the display itself more readable. The lighting leaves much to be desired, such as eliminating morning glare from the rear window, installing stage lights, and intensifying the ordinary room lights. Another item on the wish list is to wire all the light switches to one panel for better control.

Although the task force is directly concerned only with interior work, it may also recommend re-roofing before the sanctuary remodel begins. With the roof in its current condition, any insulation or other improvements on the ceiling could be damaged by leaks or the roof work itself. The team will also look at ways to improve the entryway inside and out, and possibly the front stairs.

"There are things we can do to make our church building more attractive and usable, but the building is a facility to be used for building up God's people. We're not doing this primarily for ourselves. It's more for people who have no relationship with Christ."

The task force envisions being ready to start work in early fall, but nothing major can happen without the approval of the administrative board and a vote of the congregation. This is not intended to be an obscure or secretive process, so feel free to approach any of the task force members with your concerns. If you would like to submit written comments or questions, feedback forms are still available in the back of the church. Anonymous feedback is acceptable, but please do put down your age and how long you've been attending EHA.

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