Christ Church Looks Back: Maintenance of Church Facilities, Continued

Christ Church Looks Back: Maintenance of Church Facilities, Continued
By Joseph Tomberlin
Posted December 17, 2013

Joseph Tomberlin

The previous article in this series (November, 2013) described a congregational meeting on the evening of October 3, 1962, which rejected a motion for “a general renovation of the interior of the church . . . [based upon] the plans drawn by Mr. [Blake] Ellis. Immediately afterward, communicants approved a Bill Eager, Jr. motion calling for specific improvements to the structure, including “fixing and painting of the walls, new lighting, changes necessary to accomodate [sic] a new altar, cathedral glass behind the altar[,] and minor repairs.” The meeting adjourned directly after endorsing the Eager motion.

Then, in the Vestry’s session of November 7, 1962, Mr. Ellis reported on the progress to date of the renovation, and he also presented revised plans for the project, presumably to conform to the decisions made at the congregational assembly on October 3, 1962. Jamie Carroll and George Twiggs moved that Mr. Ellis “submit proposed plans to Valdosta Erectors” to establish the estimated cost of the work to be done. The Vestry Minute Book for 1961-1964 contains a document from “Valdosta Erectors, General Contractors” that has a price tag showing the project divided into three segments, costing, respectively, $9,000.00, $5,308.00, and $792.00. Marion Tucker and R.R. McCall of Valdosta Erectors later attended the Vestry meeting of December 5, 1962, to discuss “the proposed renovation of the Church and an estimate of the proposed cost.” The Vestry, however, did not make a decision about the amount of money to be spent until the February 1963 meeting.

At the session on February 6, 1963, “Mr. Tillman” [the Minutes are not clear about which Tillman, Jerome or Harrison, this was] moved that “the Vestry enter into a contract with Valdosta Erectors to accept their bid in the amount of $9,000.00 for the proposed general renovation of the Church interior and their alternate number 2 bid of $792.00, which includes erecting a wall back of the altar and installing a platform, and any money not on hand that is required to pay for said contracts will be borrowed from appropriate source in order to do so.” Louis Kafoure seconded the Tillman motion, which received Vestry approval. Mr. Kafoure then offered a motion to empower Blake Ellis to “make contracts for purchase and installation of altar, altar rail[,] and lighting fixtures for the Nave, not to exceed $3,050.00, provided such action be taken after the amount of money has been specifically pledged or received for the particular project.” With second by Bill Eager, Jr., this motion also won approval. Thereupon, Mr. Eager put forward a motion to “implement” the preceding actions. Specifically, Mr. Eager moved that Vestry permit the Senior Warden, James Perryman, and/or the Treasurer, J. LeRoy Hankinson, “to negotiate loans with the C&S Bank not to exceed $13,000.00, with repayment to be made with funds earmarked for these projects and/or general funds of the Church.” Seconded by Louis Kafoure, this motion passed. Thus, Vestry opted for an endeavor with an expected cost of $12,842.00 instead of the full cost of $15,100.00 projected by Valdosta Erectors.

Though Christ Church Vestry records have no direct or specific information about the $13,000.00 loan from the C&S Bank, the Minutes of the Vestry meeting of March 5, 1963, contain a reference to the matter that is obscured by use of a passive voice verb. The pertinent passage declares, “It was requested that the Vestry cancel the existing note of $13,000.00 at the C&S Bank and borrow such money as needed until renovation is completed[,] at which time the final contract can be settled.” “It was requested” is so vague that it leaves us with no information whatever about who made the request or, for that matter, what action the Vestry took. What the Vestry then did was to consent to Mr. Ellis’s ordering “the Altar, Altar Rail, Pulpit, Lectern, and lights this week to expedite the completion of Church renovation by Easter [April 14th in 1963]. Mr. Ellis was also authorized to provide and complete the color scheme for the interior of the Church.”

On April 2, 1963, Vestry members involved themselves in a prolonged discussion over a relatively minor matter. This time the topic was “new carpeting for the parts of the Church being renovated. . . .” Ultimately, Bill Eager, Jr. moved that Vestry appoint Marion Tucker “to immediately investigate the price of such carpeting, installed, and if price of satisfactory carpeting—not including runner—does not exceed $600.00, he be hereby authorized to proceed with installation of same.” John Oliver seconded, and the motion carried. Afterward, Mr. Ellis requested that Vestry approve of the payment of $5,465.97 to Valdosta Erectors and also of “the architect’s bill which will be presented in the next few days.” The Senior Warden seconded a Bill Eager motion covering both items, and Vestry voted its approval.

About six weeks later, on May 14, 1963, the Rector, Fr. Kippenbrock, convened what the Minute Book calls a “Special Meeting,” meaning, one assumes, a called meeting. The Rector reported that, to date, pledges for the renovation project totaled $10,142.60, of which $5,322.60 had been collected. He also presented to Vestry minor bills that “were over and above the contract price on the Church renovation” but were for work deemed essential. These bills amounted to $136.68, and, on an Ellis-Eager motion, their being paid received approval. Considerably more significant was the following portion of the “special” session, in which the Senior Warden, James Perryman took the floor. Mr. Perryman acknowledged that the renovation then underway had created “a lot of dissension in the Church. . . .” Consequently, “the Vestry thought that we should invite the Bishop [The Right Rev. Albert Rhett Stuart] over for a visit to see if he could offer any help in this general situation.” What ensued was “much discussion concerning the . . . [belief] that elements of the Church renovation probably triggered unrest and dissatisfaction that has existed for some time. . . .” Therefore, the Vestry members concluded that “we should invite Bishop Stuart to meet with us” to allow “us to ask his advice and help. . . .” Accordingly, Fr. Kippenbrock “agreed to call Bishop Stuart by phone tomorrow and ask him to meet with us at his earliest convenience.”

Bishop Stuart afterward visited Christ Church on May 23, 1963, and met with the Rector and ten members of the Vestry. The Bishop told those present that, “from all he had heard about the church renovation, both pro and con, he did not know what to expect before viewing the new Church interior.” He said also that he wanted it to be “a matter of public record that he is highly pleased with the renovation and that it is a very fine piece of work and one of which we should be proud and something that the church should have done long ago.” Stuart added that “the Church now . . . [has] a color and quietness that it had never had before.”

The Bishop’s endorsement of the changes that had been made in the interior of the church did not bring an end to criticism of the project. In the Vestry meeting of June 5, 1963, Senior Warden James Perryman read a letter from a communicant “which discussed at length the recent Church renovation.” After talking over the contents of the letter, Vestry asked Mr. Perryman to respond and to explain “any and all actions taken by the Vestry in connection” with the revamping of the Church, “a copy of which letter to be attached permanently to the Minutes of the Vestry meeting.” Indeed, the Perryman letter still is attached to the Minutes of June 5, 1963, meeting in the 1961-1964 Minute Book. However, no trace remains of the communicant letter to which Perryman responded and no clue as to what it said.

Perryman replied to his correspondent, “We went over the Vestry minutes concerning the Renovation Project and tried to discover the nature and basis of the problem which seems to have arisen in the Church.” As he put it, “The minutes of the Parish Meeting [on October 3, 1962] show that the proposed lowering of the ceiling and removal of the choir stalls be eliminated from the plans, with the rest of the plans apparently approved.” Perryman pointed out that by “the rest of the plans” he referred to “the cutting of the east wall to install a window, installation of sheet rock on the walls, new lights in the nave[,] and other work as necessary to complete the renovation.” There was never “any suggestion or instruction to the Vestry or the architect to bring in a new set of plans for approval of the Congregation.” Further, wrote Perryman, “I think it quite likely that everyone had a different idea” about the potential appearance of the completed project.

The Senior Warden also asserted, “In entire good faith and without a dissenting vote, the Vestry instructed the architect to proceed with the work, making the changes above indicated.” As he said, “We had engaged the services of Mr. Ellis as architect and were confident in his ability to carry out the project.” Moreover, . . . the Vestry thought, and still thinks, it was acting in the best interests of the Church. It is unfortunate that the result has been controversial, and we share your concern that many people seem to be disturbed.”

Finally, said Perryman, “it was not the intention of the Vestry to be arbitrary in this matter. No one of the members of this body is ready to accept the charge that they were wilfully [sic] disobedient to the expressed will and mind of the Parish meeting.” He then reminded his correspondent that “the Vestry, as a body, is charged with the responsibility of using its best judgment in administering the business affairs of the Parish. We maintain that we did just that in this present instance, and we crave the understanding and cooperation of the Parish to join forces in facing the future, united as a family in the service of Our Lord and the spreading of his Gospel.”

With the modifications to the Church made in the 1962-1963, Christ Church assumed the appearance that it maintained until the major overhaul carried out by Derek Pickup, a communicant and a contractor, in 1980-1981. Facing east, a person seated in a pew would see a lectern on the right, from which the Old Testament and the Epistle were read. On the left was a pulpit from which the Gospel was read and the sermon preached. Behind the lectern and pulpit were choir stalls on the right with the organ and on the left as well. The altar was behind the choir stalls and adjacent to the east wall and the colored window installed during the 1962-1963 renovation. All carpeting, including the runner in the center aisle, was red. Almost the entirety of that configuration disappeared with completion of the major 1980-1981 renovation, except the red carpet, which was replaced by blue carpet after 2000.

The next article in the series will focus on the resignation of Fr. Kippenbrock in 1963 and the prolonged search for his successor.