The Work of this Generation

Ready for a Shakedown Cruise

main image

Well, we are nearing the finish line, and this will be my final note on the progress of the restoration of St. Mary’s historic church.  Soon you can see for yourself the finished restored church.  It has been a great project, enjoyed thoroughly, with tremendous support from the leadership of the church;  the rector, Jennifer Pedrick;  the vestry,  and as importantly from individual members of the congregation.  The earlier concerns of working relationships, angering individual members of the congregation, who had personal experiences in the church and would think it should remain absolutely as before the restoration began, never happened.   As well, the fear of financial disaster, resulting from no congregational support for the work to be done, was never realized, in fact just the opposite.  The working relationship with all could not have been better…superb, allowing the project to be complete on time and slightly under budget without stop-work distractions or conflicts.  And having raised money in a number of different settings, the generosity of this congregation led by the rector and the fund-raising committee is unparalleled.  Thank you!

In fact, individual members were so very supportive of the changes shared through these notes and pictures, that it was inspiring.  Alex Allard was especially helpful with the history of the church and led the effort to clean the baptismal font from years of hand transferred grease, paint, and other coloration.  David Brierley stepped up as church treasurer to not only pay the bills but to become intimately involved in the new sound/acoustic system.  These factors combined with a terrific work force, every single person involved, led by our general contractor E. W. Burman, Inc., allowed the projects to proceed expeditiously and exceed most expectations despite fears of supply chain dysfunction.  

And while we simultaneously, as the work proceeded, learned or relearned much about the history of St. Mary’s Church, our hope is that as we reopen the church on November 13, 2022, and resume services in this historic facility, that the spiritual inspiration, special family events, as well as memories of St. Mary’s Church will be renewed and will continue for at least another 175 years.  Does it look different from when it was last used for services in November 2019? Yes.  But again, the hope is that the same community  of religious spirit, collegial worship, and thoughtfulness will remain, regardless of the newly restored environment.  If prayers to God were offered to pick the right colors, as shared previously, one can be sure there were many more important prayers asking that the restoration maintain the same source of community spiritual inspiration as in the past.  So, time will tell how this request is answered.

It was almost to the day one year ago, when Jennifer asked me to consider taking over leadership of this project from Paul Westrom. Paul, as you know, did an outstanding job along with his committee, replacing the slate roof and remediating the mold from water infiltration.  I had just started writing a book, which now will get my attention. 

As shared in my first note, as a new church member, not only did I lack any knowledge of the organizational structure and leadership style of the church, but I also had absolutely no knowledge of the current financial affairs of the church and whether this project was feasible whatever the determined budget.  So, with some trepidation, we put out a contractor RFP (Request for Proposal) and had responses from several reputable contractors to act as the general contractor of the project and provide an initial budget.  Jennifer and I agreed, depending on how things progressed between the October RFP and a resolution by the vestry to go forward in January 2022, either party could decide if we were happy with one another and if this project made sense to go forward. Well, we went forward and these notes it is hoped have shared in a transparent way the restoration effort over the past year.

As shared above, having raised money for other building projects in my career, I counseled that a fund-raising effort could take years to build momentum and many pledges are paid over years when the contractors need to be paid as their work is finished.  This mismatch of resources can present problems, unless anticipated.  So, we and the vestry arranged for a $500,000 line of credit if needed as the budget was $900,000.00 and there was only about $400,000 raised from the initial church work.  And so far, thanks to all the generous donations, this loan has not been drawn upon.

With approval by the vestry of the recommended general contractor, E. W. Burman, we agreed that we would scrub the budget to avoid change orders and start the actual construction in May, doing the repointing of about 40% of the exterior of the church to prevent water filtration onto the newly painted interior walls.  The interior restoration work would follow.   The estimate of completion of all restoration work was within six months, October, 2022.

I share this brief history of the project as it has turned out so much better than I could have imagined at the beginning.

As this note is being typed, the finish work continues and will continue right up through the end of October. 

The light above the Bridal Door was refinished and transferred above the south entrance by Billy Pimentel on the right of this picture along with Billy Cordeiro to his left, also of Coastal Electric, Co., on Tuesday, October 25, 2022.  And a new light fixture was positioned above the Bridal Door. It turns out that October 25th was not only Billy Pimentel’s 62nd birthday, but it was also his last day of work as an electrician for Coastal Electric, our long-time electrical repair provider.  For more than twenty years, Bill Pimentel and Coastal have taken care of St. Mary’s Church.   He continued right up till his last day of work before retirement.  How special is this.  During this project he knew where every electrical wire was positioned, as he put most of them in their current location.  At the end of the day we shook hands; said, “Thank you from St Mary’s;” and goodbye, as he left with a gift bag of his favorite refreshment.  Drink two of those 8 % ‘er refreshments on any retirement night and it is good night! 

The installation of the blue carpet was completed on Tuesday, October 25th as well.

Even the owner of Ruggieri Carpets, Bill Ruggieri, used the vacuum cleaner to ensure all was cleaned and in a perfect condition at the end of their installation.  That doesn’t happen very often and Bill admitted not even in his own home! 

And the mosaic tiles in the narthex entry way were re-grouted and preserved by Dave Keenoy on the same day.

This is a future project to fully restore the mosaic tiles that are either cracked or missing,  but we preserved the current condition.  The narthex floor at the southern entrance will have a walk-off rug, so that no one slips upon entry, particularly on wet days.  The mat will also prevent the tracking of dirt and even salt in the winter months onto the new blue carpet.

On Thursday, October 27, Gene, our superb ever-present, problem-solving Burman supervisor of the project, arrived at 7 a.m. with three other workers to connect our baptistry font, which must weigh 800 pounds at least.  They were joined by three workers from Yardworks, who are creating new sidewalks into the church. 

It was not only necessary to connect the font to the base, but a new drain line to the basement was installed through the floor so the font could be emptied after the baptism into a special container.  Just after the font was in position, David Goff from Goff Signs in Middletown arrived to size the bowl of the font and then upgrade the gold leaf inside which has become degraded over the years.

All the chairs for the chancel were positioned after polishing and the other religious furniture was put into place.

You might be wondering, if you have followed these notes, whatever happened to the search for the historic cornerstone?  Despite all of our efforts it was never found.  But as we were digging for the new sidewalk going to the Bridal Doors on Thursday, it was revealed that there were originally two steps from the Bridal threshold to the ground like the southern entrance. 

So, my theory is the cornerstone in buried under the road at one of the side anchor columns of the Bridal entrance.  But like the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, we will let the final discovery for another generation.  We know definitely where it is not located!

On Friday the new church organ arrived!  And during the next two weeks till November 13, it will be tuned and “voiced” to the speakers so that we have great music and sound.   Ah, and a beautiful piano was also given to the historic church by Jennifer from her residence, so that we can continue to enjoy Michael’s great music ministry leadership, as well as new organ music.  Thank you, Jennifer, for this beautiful gift.

The final work is being accomplished by Yardworks, Inc., of Warwick, the laying of new sidewalks across the driveways to both entrance doors and landscaping with pea stones in the areas close to the stone walls on the south side and the bridal entrance side where nut grass and other grasses have taken over the intended existing seating areas. This was possible due to reserved funds not used internally in the restoration.

 Well, from now until the first service on November 13, 2022 this “ship” of spiritual inspiration, St. Mary’s historic Church, is ready to get underway on a shakedown cruise, as Admiral Stephen B. Luce, the founder of the Naval War College in Newport, who is buried in the St. Mary’s cemetery, would no doubt say.  Next is the completed fit-out of religious material and organizational and ceremonial practice and review.  So, we wait with anticipation and perhaps excitement and even a touch of anxiety for the first service in our restored church to begin, a service that we hope will rekindle the spiritual worship that has taken place there for the last 175 years…….Thank you all….

Posted by Ron Machtley with

Breaking Radio Silence

main image

Well, as we would say in the Navy, “Intend to break radio silence to provide a sitrep report on the restoration.”  

This thought occurred to me  early yesterday morning  as I was reading a very good new book, Nimitz at War, by Craig Symonds, a former faculty member at the Naval Academy and then the Naval War College.  If you want to give someone a great gift, his earlier book, World War II at Sea is excellent.

So, between the time the US ships left ports until the great sea battles in the Pacific in WWII began, there was no radio communication back to Nimitz or his staff to prevent giving away the ships positions or intended target.  He thus had to trust his subordinate admirals, Spruance, Halsey, Fletcher and others, while he waited anxiously.

So as the rain has been falling the last two days, I do not want anyone to feel anxious about the progress of the restoration of the church, or whether our new pews are getting wet as they are transported into the church. A great deal of good fortune and news about the progress of the restoration has taken place this past week, since my last report, so I want to share to avoid any anxiety.

This is a picture collage of the interior of the church as it stood this past Thursday night, October 13, 2022. 

It is indeed remarkable how the interior came together in the past week.  One of Nimitz’s leadership strengths was his ability to select good people and then stand back while trusting them to do a good job enacting his carefully articulated orders.  Perhaps, one of the reasons this project has gone so well, is the outstanding people who worked on the restoration of the historic church and their professional dedication.   But as well, it is also the remarkable trust that the rector, vestry and generously giving St. Mary’s church community had in our ability to complete this project on time and under budget. Completing the restoration in a manner that is transcendent and simply elegant, words giving for direction at the beginning of this restoration.

Last weekend, while many enjoyed a time away from work, Denis Leonti and his floor crew worked throughout the weekend to complete the oak floor finish.  It had to be finished by Tuesday morning when the finished pews and altar were to arrive on site.  Trucks and workers were ready to move on Tuesday.  After a new buffing and a third coat of poly on Monday afternoon to correct a slight imperfection in the finish, the floor was ready Tuesday morning for the big move back into the church.  

We also had a cleaning crew working as well to remove any dust from the sanding of the floors which remained on walls, ceilings and radiator covers, even though we used vacuums with the sanders and had plastic sheeting over the walls.  This integration of jobs and responsibility created quite an orchestral performance of talents and locations for work as one might imagine.

 We do certainly hope you agree that the stain color does look very good with the pews and the altar, maybe the word is beautiful without trying to be excessively enthusiastic.  Jokingly, I asked Jennifer  if we might consider a shoe rack so that everyone could take off their shoes entering church, in Asian fashion, to avoid marring the new floor.  But we both agreed after a laugh, that the church needs to be open and fully operational for everyone. 

 And the sun was out and a beautiful day began on Tuesday for the “big move.” 

Do you remember my expressed concern that the supply chain disruptions may mean we sat on hard pews till the cushions arrived?  Well they arrived on Tuesday as well and are in place for a comfortable seating as noted on the first picture.

While the pews were being set in place, we met with Bill Ruggieri, our carpet installer;  Patti Watson, our interior designer; Tripp Burman, our construction manager; and Jennifer to lay out exactly how the new blue carpet will be installed on this beautiful new floor.  Beginning Monday morning the carpet will start to be installed as a runner up the center of the aisle and across to the baptistry font.  If all goes according to plan the carpet should be fully installed sometime during the last week of October with the new organ following as the last item in the restoration to complete.

And then, again in Navy terminology, the restored St. Mary’s historic church will have a “shakedown cruise” to ensure that everything is operationally ready for the official church opening service on November 13.  

This will be a special time for a return to what has served the St. Mary’s community so well for 175 years, the historic church, created by Sarah Gibbs and designed by Richard Upjohn.  A place where important spiritual and family memories have been created in the past and where important spiritual moments and memories will be created in the future.

Again, thank all who have supported this project with prayers, generous giving and support.  We are almost ready for show time!  

P.S. Oh, it is Friday afternoon and the rain just stopped in time, as we just heard  the new choir chairs will be delivered this afternoon. Another unexpected blessing.  The choir must be praying!  So, all ends well this week.

Posted by Ron Machtley with