The definition of “Church” is a building used for religious activities, particularly worship services. We are the congregation of Good Shepherd and we go to services in the church. But definitions do “blur” over time. So the word “church” has a stronger meaning than “Congregation” to many. Which is probably one reason why we feel so passionate about the structure on Woburn street where we meet every Sunday.
I say passionate because of a little miracle that happened here a couple of years ago. In 2013, the Vestry looked at our leaking roof, failing organ, and a heating system held together with chewing gum and several parishioner’s dedication, and decided that we needed a serious injection of money if we were to keep our buildings useable and also attractive to the neighbors and those looking for a place to worship.
Thus as part of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the church of the God Shepherd, we launched our first Capital campaign in over 60 years. Our goals were to repair and upgrade our building and systems, lower our carbon footprint, and make the property more attractive and safe. And guess what? It was a miraculous success, raising over $400,000 for the tasks!
In this section of our web site, we have chronicled the major projects that were made possible by the generosity of our parish family. As you read on, you will note the usual surprises you find when you start to work on a building that is over 90 years old and the dedication of parishioners who “Shepherded” the projects.
The work is not totally finished at this time, so come back to this page again to see what we have accomplished together.
This Old Church: Part I
How many of you like the PBS show “This Old House” or HGTV’s “Fixer Upper”? In each show, the crew of designers, carpenters, plumbers, and others take an older home and attempt to give it a new life. In virtually episode, they run into “Surprises” – some damage or flaw that causes them to regroup and attempt to fix it before moving on – inevitably the fix eats more of the budget than planned. So it usually boils down to the best compromise possible for the homeowner. As the new senior warden, I feel like the host of a similar TV show. On “This Old Church,” we have a budget (thanks to the Capital Campaign) and we are attempting to fix and enhance our worship space and the rest of the facility. The goal is to extend the life of our facility, to make it more efficient, more attractive for our parish family, and to help attract new members. And like the show, there are surprises and compromises! Take our heating system. One goal of the capital campaign is to replace the parts that are very old and make our buildings as green as possible, especially in the lounge and offices which are used daily. According to one member of the property committee, to do it all properly would take almost a quarter of a million dollars! That of course is out of the question. So the Vestry and Property committee have been working on compromise. Our goal is to spend less than $100,000 on everything. As we still have important projects in the future, this compromise is a much more daunting task than first expected. Let’s just examine the heating system in the offices and lounge (the boiler in the sanctuary had been more or less completed. But that is a discussion for another eNews). Our attempts to go green and go with natural gas or possibly a dual fuel system were met with the fact that gas pressure in our section of Reading may be too low on some days to work properly. Also, a dual fuel system is substantially more expensive. Remember the surprise statement I mentioned earlier? Well, our fear is that if we start to run ductwork through the ceiling and the basement for a heating and air conditioning system, we will open up the proverbial “can of worms” if we find things that do not meet the building codes of today and added costs could then mount. Now comes the compromise. Thanks to the Property Committee, and specifically Mark Manzelli and James Strack, we feel that we have a solution. We are looking at installing “ductless heat pumps.” If you Google this phrase, you will see that these are units that look something like a wall mount air conditioner (as seen in the photo at right). There will be units on the outside wall that remove heat from the building and discharge it outside in the summer and reverse the operation in the winter. Today’s designs are efficient enough to provide adequate heat on all but the coldest days. On those days, our original steam boiler will be used as a backup. The heat pumps are so efficient, it is estimated that we will save at least $900 per year in energy costs! As each unit will have separate controls, we can lower heat in rooms when no one is scheduled to use them, potentially saving even more! If all goes as planned, this compromise will cost us just under $75,000, including the required electrical upgrade necessary. As the units are mounted on the wall, there is no ductwork to be installed, limiting the possibility of surprises. There also is the potential of rebates from Reading power and Green Grants from the diocese, potentially improving our bottom line. The other HVAC system we looked at, which is called a “hybrid” system, requires ducting and plumbing, which is where the surprises can show themselves. If nothing goes wrong, this solution is closer to $95,000. If something goes wrong… well, we just don’t know. The Vestry has given the go-ahead to the Property committee to pursue the ductless system. We will keep you informed on our progress. I want to thank the Property Committee – Dana Ines, Ray Luddy, Mark Manzelli, Bob Newton, Warren Poor, Ben Sands, James Strack, and Ted Smethurst – for their dogged determination and desire to do the right things for Good Shepherd.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll report on the other elements of the capital improvement and discuss our future plans. I invite all of you to comment and make recommendations on any aspects of the projects. You can talk to or email any members of the Property committee or the Vestry. It is important that we tell you what we are doing and that you let us know if you agree!