Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One More Maintenance Issue

After church, I wanted to check whether certain lights were working properly. I used to remember what lighting controls did what. After half a dozen years of having no responsibility for lighting, however, my memory was a bit fuzzy. What struck me, however, was that many—perhaps all—indicator lamps were burned out.

There are four banks of controls for the lights in the church. Three of these consist of six buttons for selecting Preset 1, Preset 2, Preset 3, Preset 4, Work Lights, and Off. These are located on the back wall of the nave, at the pulpit, and on the wall near one of the side doors in the chancel. Located in the niche in the chancel—the niche was intended as the location of the organ console, but I don’t think any organist wanted to play from there—is the master control panel. In addition to the functionality available at the satellite panels, one can design the presets and engage or disengage fades from that panel. In addition to numerous slider controls, the panel sports seven buttons.

In total, there are 25 buttons in the church that are supposed to be illuminated when corresponding functions are activated, but few if any of the lamps behind the button caps are working. Apparently, no one has noticed or cares. The lamps themselves are odd and cumbersome to change. Perhaps one can find them locally, but I don’t know if that’s the case. They can be ordered from the manufacturer of the lighting controls and cost, the last time I ordered them, about a dollar apiece. Without the lamps functioning, one never knows what lighting setting is active.

The picture below shows the master control panel. I have pointed out one of the seven buttons.

Master lighting panel
Unlike the maintenance items I noted in my last post, fixing the button lamps in the church is relatively easy and cheap.

Maintenance Issues

When I arrived at church Sunday, I parked near the clergy parking spaces. I knew the paving in our parking lot had some problems, but I had not realized that the lot was in very bad shape in places. The picture below shows the paving at the south edge of the lot. (Click on the image for a larger view on any of the pictures below.)

Parking lot
Later, I left the undercroft and stepped out the door to Mayfair Drive. I wanted to use my phone, and there seems to be no effective cell phone service inside the building. (I don’t quite understand this phenomenon, but I doubt anyone can do much about it.) My gaze first went to the plantings on either side of the sidewalk and then to the metal railing. I was distressed that the railing is much in need of maintenance. It is rusting and, without attention, will simply rust away. (See view of the railing below and a closeup of it.)


Railing (detail)
I also noticed that the mortar between the stones on the side of the steps was deteriorating (see below).

St. Paul’s is a big building, and keeping it is good repair is a never-ending task. Do we inspect the building periodically to find problems? Probably not. In any case, I think it more important to maintain what we have before we spend money on “improvements.”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Inaudible Sermon

Senior warden Mark Vito delivered the sermon at the 10:45 service yesterday. No doubt, he delivered a fine address. Unfortunately, I have no idea what he said. I don’t even know what the topic of the sermon was or why Mark was preaching at all. The reasons for my ignorance are sinple:
  1. I sing in the choir and was therefore sitting in the chancel.
  2. Mark appeared to be relying heavily on the pulpit microphone and was making no special effort to project his words.
  3. The new sound system employs two small speakers facing the chancel. No sound seemed to be emanating from them, however.
Aging does not seem to be a factor in my not being able to hear Mark. None of the choir members around me could hear anything, either.  After several minutes of fruitless attention to what few sounds reached me from my seat behind the organ console, I decided to do something more productive and took a bathroom break. I returned long before the sermon was over.

Having spent so much money on a new sound system, has anyone thought to investigate how well it works?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Undercroft Windows

Windows were replaced in the undercroft last week. The old windows with colored glass have given way to windows with clear glass panes that, according to an announcement, “have a slight tint and are low-E.” The tint must be very slight indeed, as the glass looks perfectly clear. I had to look up low-E glass, which I had never heard of and still do not completely understand. Apparently, low-E glass has better insulating properties than regular glass and filters out some UV rays. (For more information, this Web page may help.)

The windows are certainly more attractive than the old ones and provide more light during the day. One can quibble about the view through the glass and the fact that more light is not always a good thing. A slide show at an Adult Forum will certainly not benefit from more light in the room. And, of course, the shape of the undercroft windows does not facilitate the use of any straightforward shade. I don’t know if there is any plan for how to deal with this occasional need.

Some windows no longer open; others do. I assume that there is some reason for this, but I don’t know what it might be. Anyway, shown below is a window that opens and one that does not. Make of it what you will. Click on an image for a bigger view.

Windows that opens
Window that opens

Window that does not open
And one that doesn’t

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Odds and Ends

At the 10:45 service this morning, the choir sang from the balcony. The conventional wisdom is that the choir sounds best when it sings there. I did hear comments from those who sat in the nave that the choir sounded unusually good. Unfortunately, I was also told that, from the transept, the choir could not be heard well. Oh, well.

There are other disadvantages to having the choir sing from the balcony. It is hot and crowded; having to navigate the stairs is difficult for some singers; and communion is cumbersome. The balcony has never been renovated to provide comfortable seating, whether for the choir or for ordinary worshipers. Some day, we should tackle that project.

Burned-out bulbs in lanterns
Lanterns seen from the balcony showing some of the burned-out light bulbs. (Click on
photo for a bigger view.)
Being in the balcony, I got a good look at some of the lanterns above the nave. As I mentioned earlier, quite a few bulbs in the lanterns are burned out and have been so for some time. Although some of the burned-out spotlights in the chancel have been dealt with, no attempt has been made to replace the multitude of dark bulbs in the lanterns. The picture at the right illustrates how one can identify offending bulbs. I did not attempt a complete count today, but I estimate that about a dozen light bulbs need replacing. (Note that the photo is mostly dark to show the shadows of inoperative bulbs cast by working bulbs.)

I took a few moments to read the Vestry minutes from May posted on the bulletin board outside the church office. I found this item in the report of the Junior Warden Eric Linn to be very interesting:
Eric reported that the sign committee met yesterday and reached an agreement about a new design for the electronic sign which will comply with Mt. Lebanon’s zoning laws. The electronic sign will now be housed within the framework of the existing sign and will sit upon the existing base. There was concern expressed about the sign’s visibility because of its location on the lot and the existence of PennDOT’s utility box on the corner of Mayfair and Washington. The sign cannot be relocated without a variance which the Church is highly unlikely to be granted. A suggestion was made to raise the height of the sign to increase visibility. Eric will email the municipality about the possibility of having PennDOT move the utility box.
Generally, I take this to be good news, though having the utility box moved may be expensive. Our custom sign is quite lovely, its only problems being that it’s hard to read, and we don’t update it anyhow. The space available inside the sign for an electronic insert is smaller than we would like, but that may be something we just have to deal with.

There was also this from Eric:
The municipality has requested that the Church move the banner in front of the property away from the intersection of Mayfair and Washington.
This, too, is good news. Our banners are horribly tacky and have been left up much too long. It is to be hoped that special messages will appear on our electronic sign in the not-too-distant future and tacky banners will be a thing of the past. Stay tuned.

Finally, there was this rather bizarre item in the minutes:
Michelle distributed an article about addressing sabotage which sometimes shows up in times of stress, such as when the rector is on sabbatical. The Vestry should be aware of grievances which might arise due to anxiety within the parish and work to resolve them.
I see no evidence that Lou’s absence has caused any particular anxiety within the parish. (The prospect of his return is perhaps more likely to cause anxiety.) In any case, St. Paul’s parishioners tend to be articulate and well-behaved, and I find Michelle’s “warning” patently offensive.

In fact, there seems to be a PR campaign afoot to convince everyone that Lou is indispensable and that Michelle is somehow not up to the job that has fallen to her in his absence. To be sure, she has had her missteps, but St. Paul’s is getting by just fine, thank you very much. As evidence of the offensive, I cite Lou’s insistence that Michelle take time off this summer to avoid burnout, the above warning about sabotage, Lou’s returning early to relieve stress on Michelle, and the constant reminders of what Lou is about and pleas to pray for him.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Interesting Worship Advice

Someone on Facebook posted a link to an essay titled “Why traditional churches should stick with traditional worship.” I found this to be an interesting read, and you may, too.

The essay contained a link to another post, this one called “How a traditional church can grow again.” This is basically an introduction to a 14-minute video, “Amazing Grace: A church for men.” It tells the story of a Midwestern United Methodist Church that made subtle changes in its worship to be more man-friendly. Right! That seemed strange to me, too! The claim, however, is that the changes brought in more men and, with them, more women and children.

Call me skeptical, but the 14 minutes spent watching the video can certainly be thought-provoking.