January 8, 2016


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January 8, 2016 Dear Saint Georgian’s, At ou r Decem ber m eeting, the Vestry d iscu ssed w hether ou r up com ing nave renovation p roject shou ld incorp orate flexible seating in the form of form al, w ood en chairs or retain ou r existing pew s. Given the level of interest in this asp ect of the renovation, w e’d like to d escribe w hat w e believe w as ou r thorou gh and thou ghtfu l d iscu ssion. We began by hearing from the Renovation Com m ittee tri-chairs, w ho su m m arized all the com m ents they’ve received on ou r seating op tions. They covered comm ents m ad e d u ring check-in sessions, comm ents m ad e to each of them p ersonally, and the tw elve com m ent card s that have been subm itted . Based on parish feed back, there app eared to be a sm all grou p that op p osed any change at all to the cu rrent seating; a sm all grou p that strong ly p referred chairs to p ews; and a som ew hat larger grou p that p referred pew s bu t w as op en to the p ossibility of chairs. There also ap p eared to be a sm all group that w as very excited abou t the p rosp ect of chairs. The tri-chairs noted that the m ajority of the congregation, d esp ite m u ltip le op p ortu nities and invitations, has p rovid ed no comment at all on this qu estion. After hearing this summ ary of the feed back, Shearon asked us to engage in a d iscernm ent exercise, w hich rem ind ed u s to hold ou r convictions lightly and to enter d iscu ssion w ith a d iscerning sp irit. After a p eriod of silence and p rayer, w e talked through the joys and challenges that w e exp erienced w hen thinking abou t each op tion. All of the p articu lar top ics that cam e u p from the congregation ap peared in this d iscussion, as w ell as others that ind ivid u al m em bers of the Vestry contribu ted . When d iscussing p ew s, m any acknow led ged an attachm ent to them as a tangible p art of ou r history and as trad itional fixtu res that m ark the sp ace as “chu rch.” Som e noted the “com m u nity” of sharing a seat or kneeler w ith other p eop le, w hile being able to d efine p ersonal sp ace. We noted that som e use the p ew s to stabilize themselves w hile getting u p or d ow n. On the other hand , w e d iscu ssed that fixed p ew s lim it the ability to accom m od ate p eop le in w heelchairs. And , they com m it u s, and fu tu re St. Georgians, to a p articu lar seating configu ration in the nave. Retaining the p ew s m eans that the accessibility and flexibility that the renovation hop es to create w ill be lim ited to the chancel. We d iscu ssed that the chairs rep resent flexibility and a m ore op en ap p roach to the sp ace. This app roach w ou ld be available both to u s and to generations yet to com e. The chairs w ou ld allow re-configuration of the sp ace, and , u nlike the p ews, w ou ld op en the p ossibility of u sing the labyrinth (either ou r existing labyrinth or one installed in the floor tiles). Chairs w ou ld allow for w heelchairs or strollers to be p laced am ong the seats in the Loving God, Serving Others, Changing the World

915 North Oakland Street | Arlington, Virginia 22203-1916 | Virginia Square Metro 703.525.8286 | 703.522.6634 fax | www.saintgeorgeschurch.org

nave and thus w ou ld allow those w ith d isabilities to be integrated into the congregation m ore fu lly. As challenges, w e noted that chairs m ight not be as stable as p ew s and cou ld be d ifficult to m ove or store. We acknow led ged that choosing chairs cou ld p rove a d ivisive issu e for som e in the congregation and that w e w ou ld lose som e continu ity betw een the old and the renovated sp ace. After this exercise, each ind ivid u al m em ber of the Vestry w as given an op p ortu nity to sp eak on their ow n sense of w hat they felt called to d o. Many m em bers acknow led ged tension betw een their ow n p ersonal p reference for p ew s and their responsibility to be good stew ard s of the sp ace. Several sp oke of being m otivated by the id ea that w hat w e choose now w ill likely be in p lace for several generations. We d o not k now w hat St. Georgian’s w ill need from the nave in 20, 40 or 60 years. They m ay choose to w orship very d ifferently than w e d o now and / or they m ay have a p ressing need to m onetize the sp ace by using it for concerts or other ou tsid e events. We ju st cannot anticip ate their need s p recisely, bu t w e can leave them as m any op tions as p ossible. For m any, this ap p roach pointed clearly to the chairs. Others w ere d rawn d irectly to the chairs as accom p lishing ou r stated goal of accessibility. They saw the chairs as an integral p art of the im p rovem ents p lanned for the nave and thou ght that retaining the p ew s w ou ld leave the renovation incom p lete. On the w hole, the m embers of the Vestry exp erienced this d ecision as having d ifficu lt and em otional elem ents, bu t felt d raw n to the op tion of creating m ore accessibility and flexibility for u s and for those w ho follow u s. We end ed ou r d iscernment by voting u nanim ou sly to p roceed w ith the chairs. Sp ecifically, the Vestry d irected the Renovation Com m ittee to p u rsu e the d esign p rop osal that used form al, w ood en chairs for seating in the nave and to continu e its efforts to obtain a nu mber of these chairs w ith arm s to p rovid e m ore stability for those requ iring it. As a Vestry, w e hope and p ray that w e are resp ond ing to God ’s call for u s to be good stew ard s of w hat w e have received from ou r p red ecessors. We believe that w e have d one that w ith resp ect to this issu e. Any of u s w ou ld be hap p y to share ou r exp erience of the d iscernm ent w ith you . Resp ectfully, Crystal H ard in Senior Ward en Please see below for pictures.

Loving God, Serving Others, Changing the World

915 North Oakland Street | Arlington, Virginia 22203-1916 | Virginia Square Metro 703.525.8286 | 703.522.6634 fax | www.saintgeorgeschurch.org

Example of Liturgical Chairs Dahlgren Chapel, Georgetown University, Washington, DC. These pictures from our architects show the concept of formal, wooden chairs in a similar liturgical space. Please note that these are not the exact model we will be using.

Loving God, Serving Others, Changing the World

915 North Oakland Street | Arlington, Virginia 22203-1916 | Virginia Square Metro 703.525.8286 | 703.522.6634 fax | www.saintgeorgeschurch.org