The Work of this Generation

Ready for a Shakedown Cruise

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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