One of the big questions we tackled as we started to plan for this new ministry was where to put it.
We have a beautiful Sunday School wing, with a number of great classrooms. A few years back, we refurbished those rooms by asking families to adopt them and decorate them in a fun and colorful way. They responded in spades! We have rooms with a horse barn painted on the walls, with horses, we have rooms with lots of fun little birds and bugs, and we even have a room that makes you feel like you're swimming in the ocean with the fishes. There's a wonderful children's library, a project full of love by one of our parishioners who is now off to college.
Lots of rooms. Might one of them work?
We knew that one challenge for some of the youngsters who would come to St Giles' Gate was that a room that was full of color and lots of stimulating pictures was a little too much for our kids to process. It would be over-stimulating and distracting. That caused us to look at the children's library, which is quite simple - white walls with dark blue trim, and shelving with all the books in place. It might work, but the books would need to be moved, which was not ideal. Further, the Sunday School classrooms were on the lower level, and this would make it difficult if not impossible for some children to participate if they had any physical disabilities.
Hmmmm. Then one of the team said, "How about the old kitchen?"
The old kitchen was once the heart and hearth of the parish, when it was a single multipurpose building (built in 1955 when the parish moved up to Henrico from downtown Richmond). Since the building of the sanctuary and the connecting wing between the two buildings, and the creation of a modern, larger kitchen in that wing, the kitchen had become a storage room. The old cabinets were still in place, but everything else was gone. The floor was patchy, uneven linoleum. The room held chairs and folding tables and assorted other gear, and was pretty sad looking.
It had several things going for it, though. It was a reasonable size for what we were imagining. It was on the main level, which is accessible for those with physical disabilities and which is close to bathrooms that are also accessible. There was a door to keep it and its occupants safe. It was in a quiet part of the church complex, and it would not take much to make it a fresh and suitable place for the class/worship activities.
We proposed the use of this space to our Vestry, who shared our vision with enthusiasm and approved a modest budget for the transformation. We asked our Building and Grounds team to plan and execute the rehab, and they took on the project with great joy. Cabinets were removed from the side walls, drywall was patched, a wooden underfloor was laid down in preparation for carpeting that will come in the next couple of weeks, and the cabinets that were on the side walls are being cut to a shorter size to fit under the windows on our cabinet wall where we will store our Godly Play equipment.
This afternoon, some of our parishioners finished up the painting. There will be bean bag chairs on the floor for the children, a low table and chairs for the work project (think a craft project that reinforces the story the children will hear), and a small low table for our worship service (a super-simple Eucharistic celebration).
We've traveled a long way to make our space God's place!You can see some of our rehab in these pictures. No pictures of how the kitchen looked before it was cleaned out...just imagine 90% of the available space stuffed with stuff. You can see the upper cabinets on the side walls. The cabinets flanking the window were left in place but the others were taken down. The walls were patched and painted. The cabinets which were taken down are being cut down and will be installed under the window, so we have some storage space. Soon there will be carpeting as well!