News for the Church, 7/28/23

Good Day to you Church! 

What a soggy, wet day we had yesterday. The rivers are full, cold, and running swiftly on this hot, late July day. 

Here’s the news for the week: 

Jeff Mitchell to Preach this Sunday

I will be away this weekend for my family reunion in New Hampshire. I hope you have a lovely Sunday of worship together without me. 

Concert Featuring Adirondack Songs and Tunes, Aug. 11th

Join us in the sanctuary for the 3rd in a 4-part series of concerts being sponsored by the Orchestra of Northern New York on Friday August 11th at 7pm. Peggy Lynn and Dan Duggan will be playing Adirondack tunes on guitar and hammered dulcimer respectively. 

This Week’s Sanctuary Renovation Update

I spoke with Brian Baker this week, the contractor out of Connecticut who uses scaffolding to work on sanctuary renovation projects. His son happened to be in the area at the beginning of the week, so he stopped into our sanctuary to put together a ballpark estimate of what it would cost for them to do our project with scaffolding. After running some numbers, Brian said the price for using scaffolding would start at $150,000, but would likely be higher than that. This is because scaffolding is so time-consuming to set up, and because insurance costs for scaffolding are high. 

We received $75,000 from the insurance company to fix the roof, repair and repaint the ceiling, and buy new pews or chairs. Given this reality, Session has decided to stay with our original, local contractor, LaFaver’s Painting, whose estimate for the ceiling work is less than $30,000. Given our financial situation, Session feels that it would not be a faithful use of our church funds to hire Brian’s company in order to save our existing pews.

As I noted previously, however, going with our local contractor means that we will have to remove our pews to bring in the scissor lift. And because the pews splinter when taken out, we are going to have to (….gulp…) let go of our current pews. 

After you take a deep breath, and let all of that settle in, let me now tell you about where we’re at with our seating situation: 

Renee Stauffer has started contacting Amish builders this week to get quotes for having new pews built. We have our fingers crossed that perhaps they might be able to reuse the endcaps of our existing pews with these new pews, but we will have to wait and hear the verdict on that later. 

We’re also still scouring the internet to see if we can find historical used pews to purchase and have transported here. 

In the meantime, Dave Wells has contracted with a local Amish builder to come and remove our existing pews (in preparation for the ceiling work). The pew removal will happen slowly– with 2 rows of pews being taken out each week. They will start sometime in August with the back rows of pews and move forward with their removal. 

Then, sometime into late September or early October, when we start to have fewer and fewer rows of pews to sit on, we will bring in the black chairs from the Center to use in the sanctuary. And when the repair work begins in November, we will shift back to worshiping in the Center until the work is completed. 

Friends, I know that this is a lot to take in and process. Big changes–both temporary ones and long-term ones– are coming our way. But we can do this. We can adapt and change! And when it’s finished, we are going to have a beautiful, bright, clean sanctuary to worship in. It will be a different sanctuary experience than the one we currently have, but it’s going to be lovely. 

Now, with that said, we will still need to grieve the loss of our faithful pews. They have been our trustworthy companions in worship for over 150 years– literally bearing the weight of our burdens and sorrows and echoing out our songs of praise and gratitude! 

I hope to spend one of our Sundays together in August really looking at our pews, and offering gratitude for their presence in our lives. Will you be thinking about any stories you might have to share that have something to do with our pews? Maybe you remember long-lost friends who used to sit in a certain pew. Or perhaps you have a funny story to share about your kids sitting in our pews. I hope that we can take a moment during a Sunday service to share some of these memories and stories. 

To draw this letter to a close, I’d like to share with you Dawn Bartow’s thoughts about all of this change in the sanctuary. In her wisdom, she emailed me this note last week: 

Katrina…I’ve been meaning to write to you about the pews. When I read your message last week my first thought was “Ohhhh. The sanctuary and worship won’t be the same!” 

Then, I stopped and thought…what am I thinking? The reason Gary and I selected the church was the people that attended the worship services. We felt at home! It wasn’t the building, or beautiful windows, or the location…it was the people! And that hasn’t changed! The service of worship has changed over the years, but it’s the people that make us what we are in the community.

And then I began to think…why do I like our winter services so much? They are in the Center and we are relaxed! Could it be that the sanctuary is too formal??? Something to think about.

So back to the pews… the padded chairs sound great! Yes, it would change things from a formal setting to a somewhat informal one. Perhaps one that would lead us to worship in today’s world a bit more meaningful to those who now worship with us? A change of scenery might bring with it renewed interest in updating other areas and bring some folks back.

So, this brings me to say…the pews are only a wide chair that will seat four people!


As I stated earlier, Session is going to try its best to make (new) pews work in the sanctuary, but no matter what the seating ends up being, Dawn is right.

Our church is not the building. Our church is the beautiful people who come together each week in worship and service. Our church is held together by friendship, and through our faith in God. Friends, WE are the church! 

Even as we sort through our feelings and take in all of this change, let’s keep in mind the bigger picture. God does not require a beautiful building in order to receive our worship. In fact, God made it clear to his people– when they were crying out that theywanted a fancy temple to worship God in– that God actually preferred tents to a fancy building. For God, it’s not what’s on the outside that counts. It’s what’s inside that matters: Our faithfulness. Our love. Our kindness. Our humility. Our work towards justice. These are the things that matter to God. 

This does not mean that pews and buildings don’t matter. They do. We still need a place to gather together, don’t we? But let’s keep “first things first” in our priorities. 

Being the body of Christ comes first. 

Remaining faithful in our call to serve God’s people comes first. 

Living into the hope of God’s kingdom comes first. 

Remembering the first things first (even at the same time as we care about the “second” things too),
Pastor Katrina