A welcoming community throughout the year
While we strive to be a church community that welcomes everyone, it is hard to create an inviting and hospitable atmosphere when the church can be so uncomfortable during the hot and humid summer months. We seek to offer a “cool and refreshing welcome” when conditions out of doors are less than pleasant.
Learning from our recent experience of allowing deferred maintenance on our buildings to accumulate, we wish to ensure that poor climate conditions in the sanctuary do not contribute to the future deterioration of fabric and furniture in that hallowed space.
To accomplish both these goals, we plan to install air-conditioning in the sanctuary. We are now asking parishioners and friends of St. Paul’s who share our vision to step forward and contribute to this game-changing endeavor.
Extending Comfort at St. Paul’s During the Summer Months
Much effort over the years has been put into providing as comfortable a physical environment as possible during the warm and humid summer months, but the need for us to do better with this has become urgent. Summers are getting hotter as climate change progresses, and health issues provoked by poor air quality are more commonly keeping people confined to air-conditioned spaces. Social habits have changed, and while summer migration of St. Paul’s families to the north is these days a rarity, those who remain in Philadelphia have become increasingly accustomed to living and working in air-conditioned environments. It no longer makes sense to expect churchgoers to suffer through the discomfort of summer heat and humidity – any more than it would be reasonable to consider not heating the church in winter.
Consider how much more inviting St. Paul’s would be for events during the summer if the church was made physically more comfortable. As well as encouraging more Sunday worship and programming opportunities, the church would become a sought-after venue for summer weddings and other events, such as gatherings, conventions, and musical programs. The combination of the sanctuary with the parish hall – itself now air-conditioned – offers a good amount of usable and attractive space that would be greatly appreciated by parishioners and our neighbors in the Chestnut Hill community.
Preserving St. Paul’s Historic Legacy of Architecture and Music
We are richly blessed at St. Paul’s with an exceptionally gorgeous church in which to worship, consecrated in 1929 and so now almost 100 years old. It includes, amongst many other unique features, large amounts of decorative wood carving. We also cherish our very fine pipe organ that dates back originally to the earliest days of the church, and which has been improved and extended over time to become one of the finest and most interesting instruments in the country. Both of these priceless assets are particularly prone to suffer degradation in an overly warm, humid environment. Our investment now in climate control of the sanctuary will reap significant cost benefits by preserving their condition far into the future.
The generosity and vision of those who came before us is both our blessing and our challenge. We are called to preserve the structure and fabric of the unique church that they brought into being. During the past eight years or so, undaunted by problems stemming from the COVID pandemic and a concurrent transition in Rectorship, the Vestry boldly stepped out to shoulder the challenge of addressing these foundational preservation needs. The most recent parish capital campaign For Such a Time as This concluded successfully in 2019 and made possible some huge and urgently needed upgrades to the building infrastructure: to unglamorous systems such as sewer and electrical, as well as providing a new kitchen, and much renovation of different spaces, notably the parish hall. Thanks to a substantial gift from a very generous donor, and to the Ann Stookey Fund for Music at St. Paul’s, the organ is nearing the end of a major renovation project, in which deterioration from decades of poor climate conditions is being rectified. These wise investments must now be protected. The result of these efforts will be a church home to inspire our worship and deepen our faith, and one that we can feel proud to pass on to those who will come after us.
The Time is Now
Fr. Eric Hungerford recently completed two years in place as Rector of St. Paul’s, and as we continue to recover from the COVID pandemic, we have a strong sense of parish reawakening and renewal. We see old and new friends returning to the pews, formation programs for adults and youth growing, and an increasing number of inquiries about baptisms, weddings, and funerals. The provision of full climate control for the sanctuary will be the important last step in completing the current series of major renovation projects at St. Paul’s – physical improvements that will support this continued congregational growth. While various lesser projects remain on the Property Committee’s to-do list, the Vestry is considering long-term funding strategies and continuing prioritization of work to help prepare responsibly for addressing those projects going forward.
Church leaders have worked with the contractors to determine the best way to air condition the church, and a proposed scope of work has been agreed.
- The construction cost of the air-conditioning project is projected to be $450,000. We are on the brink of securing this amount, thanks to a number of leadership gifts received during summer 2023.
- We now seek to raise a further $25,000 in support of the project. This will provide a safety net to cover contingencies in the construction costs, as well as creating a starter fund that will be restricted to the initial support of anticipated maintenance and utility costs that the air-conditioning installation will bring.
- All members and friends of St. Paul’s are warmly invited to join the community effort to bring us to the finish line by September 30, 2023. See below for ways to make your contribution. Payments may be made through a variety of charitable giving strategies to suit the donor.
- A generous donor will match all contributions received between now and September 30, until we meet our total goal of $475,000.
- The target date for completion of the installation work is early summer 2024.
Help Us Make St. Paul’s The Coolest Place in Town!
WAYS TO CONTRIBUTE
- By check made out to St. Paul’s Church, with a notation on the memo line that it is intended for the air conditioning project.
- Online via the St. Paul’s giving portal, using the drop-down Fund box to select “Air Conditioning”
- If you prefer to make your gift in installments, please ask Paul Diefenbach in the Parish Office for a Gift Payment Schedule form to indicate the payment schedule that you will follow. The form should be returned before September 30 to secure the matching funds, and full payment should be completed by June 30, 2025.