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  • A Gift, and a Challenge, from Jena

    Many of you may already be aware of an extraordinary gift made by Jena Roy in May. Her unrestricted gift of $100,000 was formally announced at our Annual Meeting on May 1. Jena had hoped to be present on that day but her health prevented it. We heard from Jane Ring Frank who shared Jena’s dream and hope for a major effort to enlarge our music and worship arts experience through improvements and enhancements of our sanctuary and Ripley Chapel. Jena made this gift to seed our efforts and to challenge us to dream big as she always did.

    The sanctuary has two significant needs: a major restoration of our organ and a new sound system, including a new hearing impaired subsystem. Ripley Chapel improvements have been on our wish list since the major capital campaign conducted a number of years ago. When Jena met with the Leadership Team on April 28 she explained that she was not seeking merely an effort to make physical improvements to our worship spaces but to open them both to new and innovative uses that lead us toward living into our Purpose.

    The sanctuary organ, Opus 50 of the C.B. Fisk Company, has not had any major repair work on it since it was installed in 1969, and is now in serious need of work. Fisk performed an in-depth analysis and has provided a detailed plan for full restoration; total cost is now estimated at $125,000. The sound system continues to be difficult to use and has many limitations. The current hearing aid headsets are temperamental and not technologically up-to-date.

    Ripley Chapel is a little used space due to its rigid seating plan and limited sound system. Lighting is poor and the stained glass windows restrict natural light entering the space. There are many ideas to change the chapel so it can be a flexible resource that can be used in a variety of ways: replace the pews with movable seats, create a labyrinth on the floor that mirrors the one in the Reno garden, improved and flexible lighting, storage space in or near the room, replacing the stained glass with clear glass to allow views of the Reno Garden, opening the back wall allowing views of Wedge Pond and air conditioning the space. Companion ideas include making the hallway outside the chapel more welcoming and improving the handicap entrance with a push button door opener. And there are many more ideas. Imagine all the new ways we could use Ripley Chapel if we can make it a 21st century space that welcomes all with joy!

    It is hard to know what all these ideas might cost but a current guess is in the range of $300,000-500,000. Jena’s gift is a remarkable start toward such a goal.

    Organizing the dreams

    A small workgroup was formed to begin work toward realizing this dream. The group consists of Rev. Will Burhans, Rev. Judy Arnold, Jane Ring Frank, Laurie Roby (for the Worship Ministry), Bruce Alexander (for the Facility Ministry and the Leadership team) and Jena herself. We have met a number of times, the first meeting on May 11 was attended by Jena, and she remained attentive to the effort by email and individual conversations with workgroup members until just a few days before her death on June 13.

    Acting on the dreams

    The workgroup has examined what might be done and how to go about it. We know once funds are available we could schedule the organ work promptly. We would strive to do all the work in one phase in order to avoid a 10% added cost if it were done as a multi-phased project. We have also contacted David Torrey Architecture. We worked with David previously on the capital campaign so he already has the early conceptual work on improvements to Ripley Chapel. We have met with him and provided a written document that outlines the current issues with Ripley Chapel and a compendium of the many ideas for what the space might become and how we might use it. David will perform a conceptual design study during the summer and be ready with a draft Design Study in the fall.

    Next Steps

    It is essential to draw in the whole of the congregation in this effort to include the best of all the ideas we have and to challenge ourselves over the dreams that emerge. And we need to develop and launch a fund raising effort later this year.

    The workgroup invites any and all to speak to us, to join in the effort (as we proceed we will need to divide up the work to sub-teams) and even donate to the fund. You could think of yourself as an “angel” investor in this faith journey.

    This work was kicked off rapidly so we could gain the energy for it directly from Jena. Jena chose to make her gift while she was still alive so that she could travel with us as we started this journey. Now she travels with us in spirit and we know she expects us to challenge each other to grow our dreams and bring them into being in our living church life.

    —Rev. Will, Rev. Judy, Jane, Laurie, and Bruce