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Message from the Rector

Our Chapel Property and the Spectacular Development Potential - Spiritual Ground Breaking IV 

Andrew Gould’s impromptu presentation to us at our agape meal after Liturgy, Saturday, 10/28 is here.  One present then said “We have to get this guy!”  When I told Fr. Gregory Matthews-Green that we were going to consult Andrew and that he seemed interested, he said, “He’s a genius!”  Please read this transcript of a portion of his 10/28 talk and see if you don’t agree.  You can see the entirety on youtube, the links of which were sent out a few days ago.  God is with us!  There is no clearer sign than that one with such devotion and talent wants to help us.

Andrew Gould’s Impromptu Presentation on 10/28

I’m Andrew Gould, and I specialize in architectural design for Orthodox churches. I think most of you are somewhat familiar with my work. I have been here for two days now, studying your property. And I am very enthusiastic about the building that you have been given. It’s a really, really beautiful structure. It would be almost impossible to build a structure quite as nice as that nowadays. It’s solid brick with 16 inch walls. It is just something really special. It is very beautifully detailed, and I think the character of it is very well suited to an Orthodox church, It is also the perfect size for a parish. It is big enough to hold about 150 people. And everywhere I go orthodox priests tell me that’s as big as a parish church ought to be. So I think its really quite perfect for you and its in very good condition.

I come from a city, Charleston, South Carolina, where the whole city is a historic district, so nothing can be torn down. A lot of what I do is work on restoring old buildings and almost everything is in infinitely worse condition than that building. That building would be considered almost excellent move-in condition by Charleston standards. So you’ve really got all you need there.

What you have on that property right now is as much as pretty much any Russian parish church in Russia ever has. If you visit a little town in Russia and look at the church, they have got a church yard with a somewhat run down antique building on it and no bathrooms and no electricity and no heating system. And that’s all they’ve ever had for hundreds of years and probably all they ever will have. And that’s considered all an Orthodox parish should have. So I want you to think of that church as being already your church and already everything you need. And anything more that your going to build there in terms of parish hall, bathroom, and so forth, these are modern American luxuries that you can have if you want to pay for them. And yes, I understand practically that you need these things, but I think its important to keep grounded in the reality that you haven’t been given a sort of ruinous halfway church, you’ve been given a whole church. You’ve been given everything you really need. It needs some cleaning up and decorating inside. That’s kind of that fun part. That’s the easy part to raise money for.

So I will talk a little bit about my vision for the property. In terms of the church itself, I think it is in your best interest to keep it as intact as possible in terms of its current configuration. Any attempt to cut additional doors into the building and add bathrooms and so forth is going to reduce the usability of the building. It is going to reduce the amount of functional space where people can stand and where furniture can go. I think the long term viability of it as your parish church is going to be best if it’s just kept the way it is in terms of everybody enters through the front door and the side rooms at the back simply remain sacristy space. And if you keep it like that, it’s really big enough to be a permanent parish church.

There is no difficulty getting handicapped access through the front door . It is only 2 feet above the grade right now. And the grade is kind of a low spot in front of the church. So it’s simply a matter of raising up the dirt a little bit in front of the church and creating a kind of a level courtyard space that goes all the way back to the cemetery and the road which is already up on higher ground. Then we can create and get everything on a single level where all the buildings will be at grade entrances. The parish hall should go in front of the church. Basically you would come right out of the front door of the church and you walk across the courtyard garden and right into the parish hall. The parish hall would extend off to the right so the church and the parish hall would be at 90 degrees to one another, and would frame the courtyard in between the road over here and the cemetery over there.

That has a whole bunch of advantages. It has the topographic advantage that its already high ground so you don’t need to be putting the parish hall down the hill and have all kinds of zig zagging handicap ramps between them. And it has the advantage that it puts your outdoor space, your courtyard, in front of the church. So you can be dining in the parish hall and you can enjoy looking at the front of the church with the southern sunlight illuminating it and creating an extremely beautiful sort of formal garden between the two buildings. And you can have outdoor dining there, which relieves the pressure of having a huge parish hall where everybody can dine inside.

In terms of parking, I’m not convinced that you really need to build a huge parking lot. I think you can string out cars along that driveway parallel to the cemetery from the parish hall all the way down to the old priest’s grave. That will get you quite a considerable number of cars just pulling right off the driveway. There’s opportunity elsewhere on the site to park additional cars that we can look at the numbers for that.

But again, keeping your site intact and as beautiful as possible is what is going to give it the most utility. I always advocate quality over quantity. You already have a quality building there and if you keep working with that level of quality, you’ll find that you don’t need all that much space. People tend to get fed up about not having enough space when it’s an ugly building and ugly space. People tend to be very tolerant of being close together and standing outside when it’s crowded and that kind of thing when everything is beautiful. We see this where old buildings tend to be small and everything is crowded and everything is beautiful and people are very happy compared to America where everything is huge and everything is very convenient and everyone drives 40 minutes to get anywhere and everyone is angry and says they need more space.

So think about it in the old fashioned European way, everything quality, everything beautiful. Not everyone needs to sit down and eat at the exactly the same time. Some people can wait outside, some people can eat first if it’s a crowded day. It will really be just fine because its beautiful. So I think the parish hall does not need to be enormous. You can have a dining space for maybe 75 people inside. You can have picnic tables for more people outside. You can have some moveable partitions that open and close classrooms as needed. High attendance days tend to be days you don’t have Sunday school - major feasts. bishop’s visits and so forth. At those times, you can open up classrooms as more dining space. The highest attendance days tend to be days when you don’t have coffee hour at all like Christmas morning. Or they tend to be during more temperate seasons spring and fall. Like Pascha where can be more reasonable to use outdoor space. You tend not to have maximum attendance when its pouring rain or it’s a horrible cold winter day. So my experience with churches that have a beautiful property is that they can make a lot of use of outdoor land on high attendance days.

Now talking about the interior of the chapel. Having sat in there for a number of hours and contemplated all the possibilities for how the inside can be treated, my ultimate proposal is essentially to keep some of the tin but not most of it. Basically, I think the tin ceiling is worth keeping because it’s a rather beautiful ceiling and it would be horrendously expensive to replace that ceiling. And I think you can keep the tin in the narthex because the narthex looks rather pretty as it is right now, but I think you should take the tin off the walls including in the altar, and plaster those walls. That will greatly improve the acoustics in there, and it will give you space for frescoes in the future.

This building appears to originally have had a wainscoting up to the windowsill level because there was never any plaster there. So that can be restored to being a wooden wainscot. We can build a very beautiful three-tiered iconostasis that would be kind of in a style of arts and crafts Victorian woodwork to match the woodwork on the front of the church. Sand down the floors and restore the original heart pine. Build the iconostasis from the same kind of wood. We can paint the tin ceiling with kind of a mixture of dark brown and amber colors and beautiful decorative designs so the ceiling becomes very warm and reflects the wood elsewhere in the building. And replace the six light fixtures with big ring shaped iron chandeliers in a medieval style. It will be spectacularly beautiful. It won’t look anything like the sort of whitewashed vaguely Protestant American appearance that the church currently has.

It will be all woods, and rich, and interior golden light with the kind of Orthodox character of liturgical light that we like to see; having big chandeliers with very low wattage bulbs with an amber light reflecting off a tall iconostasis with gilded icons. It will have a tremendously Orthodox ethos just because of how we will be handling the plaster textures and the reflection of light off the wood and the icons. And it will also make a big difference to replace the rose window over the entry door with a more Byzantine style of glazing which would be blown glass rondelles out of clear glass that let sunbeams through. So you will get a beautiful shaft of light coming in that will be visible through the incense and sparkle off of the icons.

I have a lot of experience with working with lighting and chandeliers and window replacements and so forth in churches in which we have this beautiful Orthodox light you see in medieval buildings in the old world. That’s really key: light and colors. The architecture is already great. The building is fine. It’s just a matter of textures and light and glass and furniture, and that sort of thing. That is what it’s going to take to make this church spectacularly beautiful inside.


The 22nd Sunday after Pentecost – St. James, Apostle of the 70, First Bishop of Jerusalem and Brother of the Lord – November 5th

The Holy Fire - We received it from this year’s Pascha in Jerusalem on Bright Wednesday.  We light our lamps and candles from it.  We maintain it in a series of 7-day candles lit each week.  The fire is also maintained at the rectory.  And now, a new book has come out: “How the Holy Fire Came to America”,  compiled from reports of its traversal of the country, with an introduction by Khouria Fredericka Matthews-Green.  Holy Apostles is the first destination covered in the book with its report written by Matushka Deborah.  It’s attractive and large and full of pictures.  A copy belongs to the parish and is available for your perusal at the Baptismal Font.  It’s on Amazon so you should get a copy for yourself.

We Welcome Baby John Petrenko into the Body of Christ.  We baptized him this past Friday evening with God-parents Fr. Deacon Christopher Capp and Elena Swensen.  We welcome back too Mariya and the rest of her brood, Anna, Daniel and Katerina.   Glory to God for everything!

We Welcome Zosima (Ralph) Sidway today.  He is still working on his project, “A North American Thebaid”, a large format book wherein the monastic life of this continent is lavishly illustrated by Ralph’s gorgeous photography.  He is here with us to, yes, take some pictures for next year’s calendar, and also to help us smarten up our digital footprint, and just be good company for a few days.  Zosimas/Ralph, make yourself at home!

Sunday School at the Rectory - Sunday School classes will be held directly after our agape meal here.  There are 5 classes.  Pre-schoolers meet on the sun porch.  Kindergarten-primary children meet in the windowed part of the basement.  Elementary and younger teenagers meets in the kitchen.  Older teenagers meet in the fireplace family room.  Adults gather for open forum in the living room.

Forty Days for Life is in progress now.  We watch and pray for the deliverance of infants from abortion in front of a family planning clinic on Greenbelt Road.  Speak with Matushka Deborah about joining in, especially in our home prayers.

Prayer Books in the Book Store - This book contains our standard usage for both our home and church prayers.  Please obtain one if you do not have one, and begin to make use of it in your own prayers.  The price is $19.95.

Pray for our Traveler Abraham Alexander.

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