“It’s an ill wind that blows no good.” That proverb certainly applied to the parish of St. Philip’s, Dunbar, during the COVID-19 shutdown. Indeed, the parish was able to complete a number of projects where the absence of a worshipping congregation was a distinct benefit.
Last summer and fall, the parish had embarked on a capital fundraising campaign – “Under Our Roof and Beyond Our Walls” - for the purpose of financing program and infrastructure projects, including the much-needed replacement of roofs on the church, the church hall and the rectory. The process of assembling a project management team, preparation of roof specifications, issuing and evaluation of tenders and selecting of a roofing contractor all took place in the fall.
A decision was made to coax the existing roofs through another winter, with the commencement of roof replacement construction scheduled for Easter Monday. During Lent, the project management team worked with the contractor to ensure the safety and minimal disruption to building users, including worshippers, pre-schools and renters.
While the arrival of the COVID-19 restrictions delayed the physical start of the project, a construction “window” was cleared during the second half of May and the buildings are now enhanced with new roofs. The church and the hall have been covered with so-called “EcoRoof” rubber shingles made of recycled tires which will extend the expected life of those roofs by up to about 60 years, compared with the 20-year average life of the more economic asphalt shingles used on the rectory. For more information please visit the Penfold's Roofing website linked here.
Meanwhile, the absence of worshippers in the church has allowed two other projects to proceed. The existing pews are being removed and rebuilt as attractive stackable pews which will increase the flexibility of the space they previously occupied. These refurbished pews also provide the further benefit of facilitating socially distanced worship.
An empty church also afforded the opportunity to access space under the church floor and install a hearing loop around the perimeter to provide an antenna that radiates the magnetic signal of the sound system to those persons in the congregation with hearing aids equipped to receive such signals.
In recognition of the hearing loop, in the virtual service on Pentecost Sunday, the socially-distanced choir presented a two-verse anthem at the end of the service acknowledging this welcome addition. The anthem commenced as follows:
“I can hear clearly now the LOOP is here
I can hear all the words as clear as day
Gone are the fuzzy sounds that hit my ears
It’s gonna be a Clear Clear hearing day”
Not to be outdone, the parish verger, Pat Brandon, has used the break to undertake a number of maintenance tasks, including painting and the renovation of the three washrooms in the church hall.
For the next 60 years, worshippers at St. Philip’s can look forward to staying dry and hearing every word of a service with undiminished clarity.
("Out of respect for readers who may be allergic to pundemic allusions, all attempts at wet or dry humour have been scrupulously self-isolated from the above article.")
Photos by Randy Murray except where noted.