Special Congregational Meeting on Pew Configuration

Sunday, June 2, 11:00 AM

For several years now, our congregational life together has been shaped by three core values: extravagant welcome, heartfelt service and spiritual nourishment. While our commitment to being a welcoming church originated in our Open and Affirming process for the LGBT community, more recently the Kitchen and Accessibility Renovation Team (KART) has helped us to see how we could improve our welcome for people with disabilities. In the fall of 2018, the Council decided to take steps to address several spatial issues that were converging at the front of the sanctuary.  First, there was no welcoming area for wheelchair attendees who were shuttled to the side or in the way back. Their companions often could not sit next to them. Second, the ultra-close spacing of the pews is challenging for some visitors to get in and out. We wondered if a combination of pews and separate chairs would be more welcoming. Third, there was a congested situation in the front section between the pews and the chancel especially during baptisms, weddings, special events, and concerts. No flexibility was possible for alternate services. Fourth, when the choir is performing in front of the church, they cannot see the choir director if he is playing the piano from the side. And so, the Council considered a time-limited period to experiment with pew removal, chairs and wheelchairs on the right and different choir and piano configurations on the left. 

Here are the outcomes that Rev. Baker and the Council looked for from the various reconfiguration experiments tried over the past three months:  

Accessibility: Our church is a community of extravagant welcome. We welcome and embrace with affirmation all persons of every physical and mental ability. One of our goals in this reconfiguration is to better accommodate those who use wheelchairs and walkers and their attendants, making them feel welcome and valued. 

Flexibility:  We are an intergenerational, diverse, caring and spiritually seeking community. Lay people are feeling empowered to create and lead their own programs – consider our new book group program. To be able to present Sunday worship services are that are creative, meaningful, welcoming, joyful, passionate and relevant to the times in which we are living, we need to increase flexibility in the sanctuary. Greater space in the front of the sanctuary would better accommodate events such as small group worship, (e.g. Lenten Contemplative Services), book groups, baptisms, new member ceremonies, concerts, and liturgical dance, to name only a few possibilities. 

Enhance Music Ministry: Our church is known for its wonderful choir, (don’t tell Cathlin, but some come to church as much for the music as for the sermon!) and it’s growing! For many months, our choir has not been able to use the loft, which fits only 14 people. Another goal of this reconfiguration is to create a way to seat the choir in the sanctuary without losing seating for non-choir worshippers. In addition, the choir now sings from the chancel, but due to limited space for the piano, the director and the choir cannot easily see one another. More space in the front of the sanctuary would mean that the piano could positioned to create better sight-lines between the choir and the director.  

Maintain Seating Capacity: The challenge for us is how to achieve these goals while avoiding or minimizing any impact on sanctuary seating capacity in light of growing attendance.

Please click here to study the following configuration ideas with these goals in mind.