On 15 February 2019, in her email letter to the parish, the rector announced an exciting new aspect to our Seasons of Renewal renovation. In response to numerous requests, we have found a practical and affordable way to improve access into pews that are along the center aisle. The information below provides some additional details and annotated photographs to help understand what we are doing.
The Issue. The pews in the nave sit on raised flooring – there is a 3.5 – 4” rise from the center aisle and in the east transept to adjacent pews. The step has been the cause of tripping, falls and near accidents. Although, lowering those floors to the level of the aisle seemed like an easy and logical change, it is not possible. The flooring under the pews is part of the church’s foundational structure. Removing those beams and installing a new/lower foundation would constitute a major construction challenge that would be risky and prohibitively expensive.
Fresh Examination and a Solution. Doing nothing was not in accordance with our mission to be accessible to everyone: those needing transport assistance (e.g., wheelchairs, walkers, etc.), unstable, aged. We did not give up hope that some improvements could be done. After the pews were removed for refinishing, the Construction Committee and the rector met with Fraser Ruwet whose firm had reinforced and replaced the rotted beams in the undercroft and later removed the pews for off-site storage and light refinishing. We asked him to use his expertise to see what, if anything, could be done to improve accessibility to the pews. Mr. Ruwet used the example of the redesigned (2012) west transept to create a solution that is effective, pleasing to the eye, and affordable. In 2012, a moderate ramp was installed that enables full and easy access from the main floor to the west transept, providing a model for us to follow.
The Front Pews. The center aisle will be raised, eliminating the step between the aisle and the pews. Moderate ramps will connect the sanctuary area in front of the altar to the raised center aisle and at the rear. The edges of the ramps will be protected by railings – same as in the west transept. The pew areas closest to the sanctuary will be modified to more easily accommodate transport devices. There will be no change in the east transept. The accompanying photos give an idea what the change will look like.
Approval and Timing. Compared to other aspects of Seasons of Renewal, the above recommendation is a relatively major change to our worship space. Moreover, timing is critical. Could all of the players adjust to accommodate this added work and still allow us to reopen the nave by Psalm Sunday? Knowing that the vestry retreat was imminent, the Construction Committee met with the rector who agreed to amend the vestry retreat’s full agenda to consider the recommendation. As was noted in the rector’s email to the parish, the vestry approved the proposed plan.
Next Steps. Because the ability to make this change and still keep to our schedule is a big question, on 5 February 2019, the Construction Committee met with those who would have to implement this change. Those in attendance represented: Moore Painting, C&S Flooring, Ruwet Construction, and ServPro. In a friendly and cooperative atmosphere we found the answers, and are cautiously hopeful that the improvements can be done by Psalm Sunday. If not, the rector permitted a contingency window of another week. Fingers crossed, and armed with your prayers, we hope we will not need it.