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  • Ripley Chapel Renovation Frequently Asked Questions

    What is being proposed for Ripley Chapel?

    To modernize the space and transform it into a flexible, sacred space that can be used for innovative and creative experiences. Air conditioning would allow for much more frequent use. But we also seek to maintain the sense of a quiet, worshipful chapel for small groups or even solitary times when a person needs to be alone. Imagine our majestic Mother’s Window with clear glass that brings into the space God’s spirit in nature and accesses the same beauty and peace of the Reno Garden. Hear music filling the air, children’s voices praying, a guided meditation. See flexible seats moving from rows to arcs to circles, all to enhance sacred worship, memorial services, weddings, labyrinth walks and prayerful gatherings. Breathe in a wide open welcome to the greater Boston area including music, art, poetry, physical motion, and other forms of God’s grace, as beauty that feeds the soul.

    Whose idea was it to change Ripley Chapel?

    The idea of modernizing Ripley has been around for many years. When the church developed its master capital plan in 2007 improvements to Ripley were included. More recently, as we have considered new and different worship services, the yearning for a sacred space with flexible seating has been prominent. Rev. Jena Roy, a treasured church member and friend, was a great advocate of thinking of fresh ways to worship and to challenge ourselves and dreams for our future. She envisioned a modernized Ripley Chapel as a key part of our evolving church purpose. Ripley Chapel has not had a major renovation since it was completed 90 years ago when it and Chidley Hall was built. The only significant change to the space was the replacement of translucent windows with the current stained glass windows we see today in the middle of the last century.

    When did this effort begin?

    In April of 2016, when Jena knew her days were limited, she offered the church a $100,000 unrestricted gift that she hoped would initiate a meaningful effort to support music and the worship arts through the restoration of our Fisk Organ in the sanctuary and a renovation of Ripley Chapel. The congregation accepted her gift at the 2016 Annual Meeting. Jena herself was able to participate in a few meetings with a small ad hoc group that began the first steps toward working on plans for Ripley and the organ. That working group continued its work even when Jena’s health meant she could no longer participate. And it continued in earnest after her death. The Leadership Team officially appointed the “Fisk Organ and Ripley Chapel Project Working Group” in September of 2016.

    How far along in the process are we?

    This spring we completed two major milestones. The first was the full restoration of our Fisk Organ; the first major effort like this since the instrument was built in the mid 1960s. The second was the completion of the Ripley Chapel Schematic Design; this was the initial design work provided by Torrey Architectural, Inc. for possible changes to the Chapel. That culminated in a decision at the 2017 Annual Meeting to proceed with a “Moderate – Significant” project (Choice 2). We are now embarking on a fund raising campaign to raise the monies needed to implement the renovation. Once that is completed the Working Group, with the help of Torrey Architectural, will develop a final design and have construction plans prepared. A construction cost estimate will also be prepared.

    I have been confused by how much money has been collected.

    Jena Roy began the Music & Worship Arts Fund by her gift of $100,000. After her death her family invited friends and family to offer gifts in her memory to be donated to the M&WA Fund. An amazing total of $182,748 was received in additional gifts. This grand total of $282,748 was provided to the Working Group by the church’s Leadership Team to fund their work.

    How was the money spent? Is there any left?

    Fisk Organ Renovation $122,601
    Ripley Chapel Schematic Design $34,344
    Total spent$156,945
    Unspent funds$125,803
    Accrued interest$2,690
    Total unspent$128,493

    The unspent funds will be available to spend on the Ripley Chapel renovations.

    I understand that the congregation, at the 2017 Annual Meeting this past May, voted to choose “Choice 2” of the three choices presented. What does this mean and what kind of renovation is now possible?

    This was an “order of magnitude” decision made by the congregation. The majority chose a “moderate-significant” effort. But there were a number of our members who voted to do even more. The effort we make in the end will depend on the amount of funds raised and our ability to use these funds wisely to gain as many of the most valued design features as possible. Here are the major items this choice is likely to include:

    1. Flexible seating (purchase nice, cushioned, stackable chairs.)
    2. Modern audio system (microphones, speakers, etc.)
    3. Handicapped access improvements to exterior Ripley Chapel Entrance. (New door with mechanical assist.)
    4. Video system. Wall mounted TV screens, Internet access etc. (To be covered when not in use.)
    5. A variety of building code and infrastructure improvements.
    6. Install clear glass in “Mothers’ Window” located at the back of the chancel. Move the stained glass to rear wall of nave above the entrance door. Mount into frame with back lighting.
    7. Modify existing lighting and add new indirect lights with dimmer controls.
    8. Add lighting enhancements for outside entry, vestibule, and hallway.
    9. Install HVAC system
    10. Clean/restore stained glass windows on sidewalls.
    11. Open up chancel area to create flexibility. (Remove structures that are not used. Provide a flat floor. Add handicap access to the area.)
    12. Floor covering. Large rug(s) that could be rolled up when desired.

    The Fund Raising goal is $625,000. Isn’t that more than the top of the range of Choice 2? Why is that?

    Yes, this goal is an ambitious target that is intended to strive to add a few features not included in Choice 2 that we have heard from many are highly desirable. If we achieve the full goal we should be able to also include the following in the renovations:

    1. Extend “Mothers’ Window” down to floor of chancel. This will enhance the view of the outdoors and allow people in the nave to see out to Wedge Pond.
    2. Cut new openings in walls below current stained-glass side windows. Install windows with operable awning sash and wood window seats. These windows would allow people in the Chapel to look out on the Reno Garden (and vice versa).

    When will we know the results of the campaign?

    The campaign will end on September 30, 2017. The results should be announced in early October.

    What happens after the campaign is over? Will the congregation be able to decide the final renovation design before construction begins?

    The first step following the campaign is for the Ripley Chapel Working Group to engage Torrey Architectural again and begin the process for final design and the creation of construction ready plans. There will also be a careful cost analysis of the plans and the creation of a detailed renovation budget. This is Phase 2 of the project. The hope is this phase could be completed by mid 2018. The product of Phase 2 will be presented to the congregation for approval and authorization to start Phase 3, the construction phase. We would also know at that time the estimated completion date for the renovation.

    What will Ripley Chapel be like between now and the renovations? Will we be able to use it?

    We expect that we will be able to remove most of the old pews, retaining a few, and make the room useful. We could consider early purchase of the new chairs we plan to buy to make the space comfortable. There might be a few other things we could do to make the Chapel hospitable in the near term.

    —Debbie Johnston and Taylor Tresselt, Ripley Chapel Funding Campaign co-chairs And The Ripley Chapel Working Group–Laurie Roby, Carolyn Plosky, Bruce Alexander, Rev. Will Burhans, Rev. Judy Arnold, & Jane Ring Frank