First Church Moderator Amy Hiestand convened a special meeting of the Church Council on Thursday evening, October 6 in Loper Chapel (where the electricity had just before been restored.) The meeting was called to hear updates related to the aftermath of the fire that occurred on Friday, September 30. Besides Council members and several staff, an additional 50 or so people attended.
Amy, Senior Minister Molly Baskette and Treasurer Moe Wright (who is a contractor and is helping to oversee issues related to the building) all shared information and then answered questions from those gathered. Here is some of the information that was shared:
The Current State of the Building
Electricity is back on in Loper Chapel and in the East Bay School for Boys. The school will likely resume on Monday.
Work is being done to shore up parts of Pilgrim Hall so that it is less dangerous. The street is still fenced off and will be until the walls and chimneys can be stabilized. That work should be completed in the next few days. Meanwhile, half of the parking lot is still fenced off and Channing Way is closed near the church.
Eventually, a temporary cover over Pilgrim Hall will be constructed to protect the building from rain.
The investigations that need to happen to determine the cause of the fire will take place when the building has been stabilized and is safe for inspectors to enter.
The church does not have an official designation as a historical landmark.
Although significant work will need to be done in the Sanctuary, it is estimated that that work will only take a few months. The organ pipes seem to be in good shape, as is the piano. More inspection of the organ console needs to be done, but it was protected by the fire department even as they fought the fire.
The pews will need to be removed to allow scaffolding to be installed to work on replastering the ceiling of the church.
Longer Term Building Issues
It isn?t clear yet what of Pilgrim Hall will need to be rebuilt or replaced, but the church will be taking this opportunity to dream about what that part of the church might look like in the future. This would likely include addressing seismic and accessibility issues at the vary least.
The suggestion came up from several quarters to form a Task Force to discuss and take action on the immediate needs of the church. An additional group may be formed later on to begin the process of imagining what might be created in that part of the church plant.
Staff has been exploring possible worship spaces while our own Sanctuary is under repair. Two options were discussed. Because the other faith communities involved will have their own internal processes related to this decision, these locations are not being shared widely at this time. A decision may not know until the end of this coming week. The location of worship on October 16 will be shared as soon as possible.
Staff is exploring alternatives for office space and hopes to have that resolved in the next week or two. In the meantime, staff are working remotely or in Durant House. One of the issues that staff is working on resolving is being able to set up the computer server to have access to those functions and data.
The Council approved a resolution to authorize Senior Minister Molly Baskette and Business Manager Nate Mazur to sign contracts or enter into agreements as needed to arrange for temporary office and worship space or other needs.
Initial word is that our insurance coverage is very good. It will also cover loss of income from rentals for our space and lost income from the Cellar Thrift Shop. It will also cover costs for temporary office and worship space.
The Wei Family
Several questions were raised about the Wei family (Point person Frankie, his wife Nikki and their three children) whose apartment was destroyed in the fire. Several initiatives are underway to address their needs. More information will be shared as soon as possible.