2019 brought a wonderful beautification of our St. Nicholas Temple. Iconographer Borislav Zivkovic completed the altar frescoes. Through two installations in June and September, the entire altar has been completed. Fr. Christopher remarked, “It is so overwhelming to serve the Liturgy in such beauty.”
Projects like this require intense labor and skill. Borislav took care of the art, and thanks to Craig Heilman, Paul Kasper, Dave and Nick Yandric and others, our parishioners have taken care of the scaffolding assembly. This has saved the Church almost $70,000 in rental and labor fees.
Once the iconography in the altar was completed, His Grace, Bishop IRINEJ, blessed the faithful to venerate them. Thus, in October of 2019, all who desired were given the opportunity to view and venerate the altar iconography. One of the most beautiful and stirring things was seen in the faithful who were moved to tears as they had the first opportunity in their lives to venerate the Holy Altar.
This section of the Iconography Messenger will recapitulate the project updates accomplished in preparation for the icons. Rather than analyze the occurrences each week, we will glance at the main parts of the project, highlighting events instead of getting bogged down in the minutiae of the project. This will be broken down into three sections: the preparation of the Church for Iconography (i.e. the renovation of the Church interior), the HVAC system upgrades, and the formulation of the iconographic programme and order of painting the Church.
The preparation of the Church and interior renovation began during the first week of June. This was later than originally anticipated; and was caused by taking due diligence in reviewing the contracts from our construction crews ensuring that we were able to maintain a safeguard for the Church. Speedwell was chosen as the main general contractor for the Church interior, both due to the price of their bid and the superiority of their wall design. Spangler & Boyer was chosen as our HVAC installer due to the efficiency of their design compared to the other bids.
PREPARATION OF THE CHURCH
Stewards lent their backs to the removal of the pews from the Church. At first, the pews were stored in the Church hall, then moved to the trailer for more permanent storage. The trailer is parked on the driveway next to the Church Hall, with the dumpsters in front of it. The reason for this is twofold: 1) due to the need for as many parking spaces as possible during great feasts and festivals, and 2) to ensure that snow removal does not damage the pews inside the trailer.
The actual preparation of the Church began with protecting our beautiful Iconostasis. A crew came to cover it with heavy-duty plastic and plywood, to ensure that it would not be damaged from dust or falling debris. Plastic was also used to protect our aging carpet, which we intend to last us until this iconography project is complete. It is always prudent, when renovating, to work from the top down so the new flooring will not be damaged. Thus, the flooring will be the last thing in our Church renovation.
The crews from Speedwell then framed out the walls with metal studs. These were set apart from the brick so that we could blow-in insulation behind them and create a vapor barrier to protect the iconography from any condensation moisture that may permeate the brick walls. It also will enable us to save on future energy costs.
Eighteen inches of insulation was also installed in the church attic. We have already noticed the difference in the ability to cool the Church during the summer. Our winter heating will also be easier as we will lose much less heat through the ceiling.
Once the wall frame was erected, our Iconography Committee requested that additional screws and supports be installed to ensure the stability of the new walls. This was brought to our attention by the diligence of a steward with construction experience and was rectified by Speedwell almost immediately.
New electrical wiring, both high and low voltage, was then installed throughout the building. We will no longer have conduit running along the brick walls—but instead, all wiring is now hidden behind the walls. New light switches and receptacles were installed in the Church, updating the 50 year old system previously in place.
Drywall installation was the next step. One may have noticed that the bottom eight feet of the wall was purple, instead of the traditional white. This was because we installed high-impact drywall on the lowest parts of the wall to make it stronger if someone or something were to fall into it—which will protect both the wall and the future iconography on it.
The drywallers, on their own initiative, decided to try and remove the Icon of the Mother of God, Wider than the Heavens (Platytera). By God’s Grace, they were successfully able to remove it with no damage whatsoever. His Grace, Bishop IRINEJ, is seeking a parish to utilize this icon.
Finally, the wall renovation project was covered by a 3mm layer of mud, which provided a level 5 finish on the drywall. Per the instructions of our iconographer, no paint has been applied on the walls.
HVAC SYSTEM UPGRADE
The second section of this update will discuss the improvements to the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems of the parish. Spangler & Boyer Mechanical, which was selected to be our HVAC contractor, also holds our annual maintenance contract. Their HVAC design included eliminating our old boiler (a 36-year-old behemoth) and replacing it with a new smaller unit.
This unit was moved from the “boiler room” to the fire room in the basement of the Church. This will ensure a higher efficiency rating, as the hot water will need to travel much less to heat the Church. The new boiler is only two feet by four feet by two feet—both much smaller and much more efficient than the old model. Facilitating this new boiler was a new system of ventilation and piping that was brought up from the basement through the candle closet and choir closet to the roof outlet.
The old blower fan units were removed at the beginning of the project. New units were installed at the end. These new units run quietly—in fact, most people may not even know that they have been running during the services for an entire month now. Each of the blower fans includes an internal thermostat which will delay the fan from blowing until the internal temperature is over 100˚ which prevents the fans from blowing cold air until the desired temperature is reached.
A centralized, single thermostat replaces the two thermostats on either side of the Church to will ensure a more uniform temperature throughout the nave. These HVAC upgrades move us from a tired system operating at around 74-78% efficiency to a 96% efficiency rating. A by-product of this upgrade will be a drastic reduction in gas consumption and related costs.
The third and last part of this update will discuss the iconographic programme and the order in which we will paint the Church.
ICONOGRAPHIC PROGRAMME & NECESSARY PLANNING CHANGES
The iconographic programme, or the plan for the icons on the walls and ceiling, was formed in a collaboration with Borislav Zivkovic (the iconographer), Father Christopher, and His Grace, Bishop IRINEJ. Specific rules, which are a part of the Canonical Tradition of the Orthodox Church, govern where icons are placed in the Church. All of the programme adheres to these rules.
His Grace, Bishop IRINEJ, blessed the Iconographic Programme in September of this year. This program is included in this messenger to showcase exactly how the icons will be placed throughout our Church.
One of the main themes, as one will see upon examination of the programme, is that the Eucharist is the center of life in the Church. Secondly, the life of St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia points to the Life of Christ. This will be a constant visual connection once the iconography is completed. Also, many names of organizations, ministry and family Slava patrons, as well as individual names days have been included in the Iconographic programme insofar as there was room.
One may also notice that our church will have one of the first ever icons of Holy Patriarch Pavle of Serbia in the altar. There will also be an icon on the back wall of the Church below the choir loft which will include portraits of the Founders of our St. Nicholas community. While they will not have nimbi, or halos, they will be handing our Church to Christ, Who will receive it through His Angels. On each side of the doors, they will be handing the Church building to Christ—on one side, the 2nd Street Church, and on the other, our current building.
The last part of the programme, which is not included in this publication, is the choir loft. The main feature will be a large icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God on the ceiling of the loft. Due to the unusual architectural features of the loft, the rest of the programme will be completed after measurements are taken there.
There is a change in the order of how we will paint the Church. Originally, we planned to complete the ceiling first then enter into a second contract for the walls. However, this was switched by necessity. We currently have plaster dust falling from the cupola—a project only completed three years ago. We have solicited an inspection by the company which completed the dome and roof work to ensure that there is no additional problem in painting the cupola. Until this area is deemed safe to paint without fear of damage, we will not paint it. Thus, we decided to begin the project with the walls first.
Finally, at the suggestion of His Grace, Bishop IRINEJ, we will use canvas on the walls instead of painting directly on them. This is for two reasons: 1) It is an application that will last longer than “al secco” (acrylic on a dry wall) and 2) Borislav Zivkovic, our iconographer, is unable to leave Texas until he receives his green card and then must remain in Texas for at least six months afterward.
The materials for our project (paint, canvas, gold leaf for the nimbi, glue for the canvas) are purchased. Borislav will be measuring the altar and the first portions of the walls of the church during the third week in November. Currently, the plan is for the entirety of the altar and a portion of the walls to be completed before Pascha 2019. A semiannual installation of icons will follow until the project is completed.
We hope that this update helps to recapitulate the preparation project our Church has undergone in the past five months. We also hope that it helps to answer some frequently asked questions. If anyone still has questions they would like to ask, feel free to contact Father Christopher or any member of the Iconography Committee.
The following icons have been fully dedicated (updated January 2020):
Mother of God, Wider than the Heavens
St. John Chrysostom
St. Nicholas of Myra & Lycea
St. Tikhon of Moscow
St. John of Shanghai & San Francisco
Holy Apostle and Protomartyr Stephen the Archdeacon
Holy Prophet and Forerunner John
Raising of Lazarus
Jesus Christ, Emmanuel
Jesus Christ, Angel of Great Council
Holy Milutin, King of Serbia
Holy Martyr Enravota (Bojan)
Holy Great Martyr Marina
Holy Martyr Christina
Holy Martyr Jevgenija
Holy Righteous Macrina
Holy Great Martyr Kyranna
Holy Great Martyr Catherine of Alexandria
Holy Equal to the Apostles, Nina of Georgia
Holy Prophet Moses
Holy Empress Helen
Protection of the Holy Theotokos
Holy Martyr Sergius
Holy Martyr Bacchus
Holy Great Martyr George
Dormition of the Mother of God
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