Construction begins on $6M renovation project at Episcopal Church in Highlands

In July 2019, the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Highlands launched a campaign to raise $6M for renovations to accommodate a steadily growing parish.

After over a year of planning, Rector Bentley Manning said he was thrilled that they were able to begin construction earlier this month.

Highlights of the project include increasing the capacity of the main Sanctuary from 220 to 290, installing a door on the Main Street side of the building, adding a spire to the new Main Street entrance to balance out the bell tower on the 5th Street side, creating an option for service overflow into Jacobs Hall with direct line of sight to the Sanctuary instead of viewing on a TV screen, and making improvements to the 5th Street entrance.

Improvements are planned for the 5th Street entrance in order to meet ADA compliance at the Episcopal Church of Highlands.

Throughout the planning process, Manning said it was important to stick to three guiding principles; respect the integrity of the Old Chapel and build upon it, recognize and defer to the expertise of the architectural firm, and don’t disrupt the aesthetics of Church’s garden spaces.

Incarnation hired Cram and Ferguson Architects of Concord, Mass. for the project and in addition to addressing space issues to handle future growth, the firm pointed out how the perspective from Main Street is both confusing and unwelcoming.

Architects called the Main Street perspective confusing and unwelcoming. One of many improvements include adding a door to give a more inviting feel.

Manning said adding a door will give the whole Main Street perspective a more inviting feel.

Cram has extensive experience in gothic architecture and liturgical projects and Manning feels they are the right firm to get this job done correctly. Cram is using the skills of a variety of artists; including blacksmiths, carvers, and painters to achieve Incarnation’s vision.

“They are using artists from all over the world,” said Manning. “We believe that wherever Christ is, Heaven and Earth are united, and our worship space should reflect that reality. It takes a lot of talent and skill to create that.”

All areas of the Episcopal Church are part of the renovations, except the Old Chapel, which was built in 1890s will remain untouched.

Church services are currently being held in the Old Chapel, which was built in the 1890s and is the only area of Incarnation not part of the renovation. Manning said most of the art used in the project will reflect local flora, fauna, plants, and animals.

Fundraising for this project began last year with the goal of raising $6M. Manning said since they launched the campaign they raised $5.5 M and recently secured a matching grant totaling the final half million needed to reach their goal.

“A project like this is only possible through generous widespread support from our family of parishioners,” said Manning. “I’m grateful for their generosity and willingness to get behind this project.”

Barring any major setbacks, Manning said they hope to open the new Sanctuary doors by June 1, 2021. Construction is expected will begin slowly, but the intensity will increase in the weeks ahead.

The $6M worth of renovations at the Episcopal Church are expected to be completed by June, 2021. Currently the sidewalk on Main Street is closed because of construction.

“I’m grateful for the Town’s understanding with the construction,” said Manning. “I know we’re taking up spots and no one likes big construction projects going on. We appreciate any forbearance in that regard.”

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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