In all of my life, I never thought I would be part of an enterprise as important, as encompassing, or as frustrating as renovating a sanctuary. Our sanctuary renovation is one of the three most important things I have done as a UU. I list them in no special order: I spoke at the same lectern as did Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King. I am president of this Congregation during the time of COVID. And two months into Ed Fox’s term as president, the Sanctuary trusses failed. And I was on the Executive Committee.
Everyone has questions about the progress of construction and when we can all worship in the renewed space. Everyone should have questions. Sometimes the answers bring a smile and satisfaction. Too often, they do not. Sometimes the answers bring more questions and confusion. COVID and the Sanctuary are woven together as a source of questions – yours and mine.
Nobody expected the sanctuary roof trusses to fail in 2018, less than 20 years after their original construction. Not many realize that it took months to work with the truss builders and engineers and our insurance company, hoping to find a degree of negligence and a source of money for the repairs. No work could be started because we had to preserve the evidence. We were past the statute of limitations to seek damages, so no one could be held responsible, and our insurance did not cover this type of damage.
COVID was an unexpected event and added time to the process. Many firms that were needed to participate in the design phase were closed. Staff was working from home. Ed Fox and the Task Force were meeting from home. Municipal buildings were closed and the people who approved plans and permits were also affected, not visiting sites, not answering phone calls. Everyone in the loop was deciding, day by day, how to do business.
Cutting to the chase, everything took longer than most people think it should have. Finding the right architect, pinning down the fine details of the design, the surfaces, the lighting, the sound, the chancel, developing the specifications, making changes – because nothing is ever even near perfect the first or second time it is tackled. As Margret says, “Everything takes twice as long in COVID.”
Moving on, there were some months with four meetings, waiting, waiting for information, plans, costs, permits. I will be blunt here. The best decision your Task Force made early on was that the end product will be well designed, well-built and a credit to everyone who contributed to fund it – even if it was a ten-dollar pledge.
Coming to today, we – all of us – are – as I said in the first paragraph- are frustrated. You say: ‘It is taking too long.” You say: “I don’t know what is going on.” You say: “Why are we still banished from our beloved space?” the answer in a word: danger. When the final plans are approved by the township, when all of the sub-contractors have the material we want, at the right price to stay within budget, at the right moment to start their part, almost the entire building will be a construction site.
Until this past Tuesday, we did not know that the ceiling of Fellowship Hall would be involved in construction. Looking back, I sometimes believe that the Task Force could have communicated more. But, really there was often nothing to say but that we were meeting and we were just as frustrated as every one of you.
We will have to endure months of construction trucks, piles of material, noise, and lots of open and unfinished projects. I will be leaving the Board, but I know that safety is object number one of both the Board and the Renovation Task Force moving forward.
I want to sit in a Sanctuary with all the accoutrements available. I want a coffee hour where I can ask and be asked questions and pray that I have the answers. I want to hug Mary and Gina and Amélie. I want to hug you – if you want or need a hug. I want to look for new faces. And sit with Kate Sloan when we are two of the few people left in Fellowship Hall. I am tired of patience.
But the fact remains that the Board and Marion and Margret will do the best they can to use our outdoor spaces and Hillside and the Horsch Room to their best purposes. Not everyone will be satisfied. But we have leadership and we have covenanted to respect the decisions of our leaders when they work in the best interests of the majority.
It has been a privilege to serve you.
–Connie Roggio, President of the UUCCH Board of Trustees