The Sanctuary Wall Project
By: John Roebel
Thanks to a generous, fully funded donation from a parish family, the decorative surface of the wall behind the altar has been changed to complement the reverent and inviting theme associated with the church renovation two summers ago. This project took a little longer to design and engineer due to both artistic and technical challenges.
Starting with the artistic, the challenge was how to merge the existing overall contemporary architecture of the church with the goal of being warmer and more inviting. We were able to do this by continuing the beautiful warm wood feature of our ceiling that has been recently been highlighted since the replacement of our main lighting a decade ago. These new lights have an up-lighting quality that shows the extraordinary beauty of our wood ceiling that had gone unnoticed by most. This wood is much warmer than the spilt-face concrete block we were used to seeing behind the crucifix. The lighter main body of the wood panels connects the altar area with the ceiling. The trim on the wood panels is darker, picking up the rich tones of the crucifix, wood beams, and the pews. Secondly, the new porcelain tile behind the altar and crucifix completes the path with the center aisle as we enter the back of church, traveling to and through the sanctuary to the tabernacle and the crucifix.
From a technical standpoint, a big hurdle existed with the need to work around the crucifix. Why work around it you may ask? Two major reasons: 1) A cost estimate of $5000 was received just to lower the cross and reattach it after resurfacing the wall; and 2) The crucifix is quite large (the wall is 28 feet high!) and the handling/rigging was judged to be very difficult and carry a high risk. Fortunately, there was a space of 6 inches between the back of the cross and the wall surface. This meant that we could possibly mount materials in that void without removal of the cross. To complicate this tight working area problem, the wall surface was very irregular, making many resurfacing processes impossible. Our talented team was able to call on their extensive design and construction experience to devise a method and plan to overcome these obstacles.
Bottom line was that Erin and Rob Rink, Neil and Ginny O’Connor, and Tom Butler, guided by Father Reutter, were able to use their ingenuity and talents to find the right design, the right materials and the right contractors to make this project a reality. My contribution was to ask them to do it and get out of the way! Many thanks to them and the contractors: Schoch Tile and Carpet; Valley Interiors; and Contemporary Cabinetry East. This was a beautiful and creative solution in our effort to make our worship space more enriching for our parish family.