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getting United basement renovated WESTMINSTER

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May 30, 2019   ·   0 Comments

 volunteers and community members who took part in the 10th Year Anniversary of ... 4th annual Public Bike Ride coming June 15. By Makayla Pereira On Saturday June 15 2019

Written By CONSTANCE SCRAFIELD

“I said at the beginning of my ministry here,” Rev. Sandra McLauchlan-Abuja told the Citizen, “Are we going to love this building or list it? We have to be a church all week – it’s a commitment to be a daily part of the community.”

This is necessarily easier said than done and that does not matter. It does not shrink the need nor the determination to answer it.

Three years ago, the church administrators and stewards took on the substantial task of completely renovating the sanctuary of the church, converting it into a fine concert space. It has been used to very good effect, with many church-based concerts (not necessarily focused on sacred music) being staged, primarily under the guiding hand of Music Director Nancy Sicsic, as well as other entertainments that have been brought in.

Now, effectively a gutting and re-build of most of the rest of the interior of the church, primarily downstairs and much of what has not yet been redone on the main floor.

“We wanted to have a building that people could think important,” Rev. McLauchlan-Abuja said.”We want to provide workshops, casual gatherings, educational events. We have identified that isolation transcends all ages.”

The work is naturally disruptive and there is as strict a time line as possible. At the moment of our interview at the church with the minister and John Lemke, a large part of the basement’s main section had been completely stripped but now was on its way and the electricians were coming the next day.

“We have to complete that part to meet our obligations to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Camp that runs for six weeks (this year, the first two weeks are at Tweedsmuir Presbyterian Church, to be sure that all inspection permits are cleared). This is a four-year contract,” she explained, “and we want to continue that relationship.” 

“At least, the new windows will open. That’ll be nice,” commented Mr. Lemke. 

A long-time member of the church, Mr. Lemke has taken on the role of project manager, as it were, for the whole works to be completed. It is a full time job, for which he volunteers. 

A new ventilation system is being installed and will create “an enjoyable space for events. We have a licence for beer and wine,” he told us.

Along with the work in the basement are plans for a new kitchen which, it is hoped, will be doubled in size following the last stage of the overall improvements to the interior of the church. This includes an extension at the back to both the lower and ground floor, the enlarged kitchen and classroom for nutrition and cooking lessons and food bank.

On the ground floor, the extension will provide “a green room” as a meeting room, pre-performance and for “small, private weddings or funeral families.”

Designed to be suitable for catering to large groups and holding cooking lessons, the kitchen, like the rest, is aimed to include and involve community members of any age or persuasion, to have some place to come to meet people and learn about, especially, life skills. 

This is quite a theme: says Rev. McLauchlan-Abuja, “I’d like to teach people the basics – clothing – how to sew on a button, for example – cooking, spiritual care. We complement Rev. Kerry at Lighthouse, just down the street [at the old movie house].”

There will be smaller and larger rooms for the best variety of use. Smaller rooms are suitable for self-help groups, classes, meeting places and the clothing depot.

“This is kind of pioneering,” said Rev. McLauchlan-Abuja. “We are moving to more progressive Christianity. We did story-telling for Christmas and, before, we held a “Darkest Night” on the Solstice, December 21, for those grieving in any way.”

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