By David Browder
It will not be long until we are able to worship in our new space! I know you are just as excited as I am about having a brand new, renovated church. As you may know, the layout of the church is largely unchanged but there are a few new architectural elements that will make worship look a little different. I would like to take some time to go over some of these things with you.
Just a few words about COVID protocols, first. We will continue following Diocesan requirements for masks and distancing. The infection rates are going in a positive direction and it looks like the vaccines are a success. Hopefully, we will see a progressive return to normal soon. Until then, we will proceed cautiously.
Now on to some of the things we will see in the church:
Liturgy of the Word (first half of the Holy Communion service)
We are installing a three-tier pulpit. Our original pulpit will be there along with two others, the community pulpit and the Gospel pulpit.
We will read announcements and officiate many Daily Office services from the community pulpit. When we use the church for seminars and talks, we will also use the community pulpit. The Gospel pulpit is where the deacon will stand to read the Gospel during our Holy Communion services, and our original pulpit – the sermon pulpit — is where the preacher will stand to preach the Gospel. Since the proclamation of the Gospel is the culmination of the Liturgy of the Word, the sermon pulpit is the highest of the three. These pulpits symbolically emphasize the importance of the Word in our service.
We will continue to use the lectern to read the other readings. We will continue to have two lessons (Epistle and Gospel) and a psalm when we move into the renovated church. Lay readers, as they have done while we have been out of the church, will come to the lectern from the congregation to read.
Liturgy of the Table (second half of the Holy Communion service)
When we open, we will still be under COVID restrictions so we will maintain the protocols we had in place for in person services before construction began. This includes north side celebration (where the celebrant is on the left end of the Table as you are facing it — a position deeply ingrained in Anglican history). Until further notice, we will still be taking only the bread in Communion which the clergy will bring to the congregation.
All confirmed youth — boys and girls — are eligible to serve in our worship services as acolytes, and those in grades 3 through 6 are eligible to serve as torch bearers. Girls who are presently oblation and lamp bearers will now be able to serve as acolytes and torch bearers. We will begin training this Spring. At first, with our COVID protocols, we will have the minimum number of acolytes — probably one per service. As things progressively open up and restrictions are lifted, we will begin adding more acolytes and torch bearers.
Livestreaming our services has proven to be a wonderful tool for outreach; Livestreaming our services will continue. We are installing equipment to support livestreaming and recording, and we expect that the quality and dependability of our livestreams will improve.
When will begin having services in the Church?
We hope to be able to hold services in the newly-renovated Church beginning on Palm Sunday: this is contingent on receiving approval for occupancy from the City of Houston Fire Marshal.
Why is it taking so long to complete?
We have experienced numerous delays related to COVID outbreaks among our craftspeople, both those working on-site and those working in their shops, requiring extended periods of isolation for the patients and their co-workers who were in close contact with them. Because much of the work in the church had to be done sequentially, this delayed other trades, even though they were COVID-free. Additionally, February’s freeze cost us a week’s work.
When will everything be done?
Tellepsen Builders, our general contractor, expects to have completed most work and to have the building cleaned by March 22. However, some work will not be completed until the end of the summer:
- The main organ may not be reconnected and tuned until mid-April. We expect to have the rear gallery organ working when the church reopens;
- The choir desks and the risers on which they will sit will not be in place for two to three months due to manufacturing delays;
- We will have temporary doors in place for the restrooms and the center entrance from narthex to nave until we receive the finished doors in May;
- The new sound and video systems will not be complete until the second week in April;
- Replacement air handlers for the climate control system will be installed in the late summer.