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Welcoming People to the First Parish

Here is the church, here is the steeple.

Let’s open the doors and welcome the people.

 

The Background

First Parish of Sudbury, First Parish Meeting House

The Front Entry

The front doors of the church are usually closed and are used only for special activities.  That means the First Parish presents a closed facade to the community as well as to people passing by on Route 27.  Members of the parish don’t enter the church through the front doors, coming in from the parking lot instead.  This is like expecting everyone to use the kitchen door in a home while the front door stays locked.

The area below the front steps is rough ground that slopes downward at an uncomfortable angle.  That leaves no level spot on which to stand, to congregate, to take pictures, or even to welcome a new bride and groom. In fact, there is no level place to stand anywhere on the church property.  Even the parking lot is tilted.

Worse, there is no access to the front door, even from the parking lot.  Anyone doing that has to walk on another slope that is covered with rough grass.  It prevents access by anyone who is handicapped or uses a walker or crutches, much less a wheelchair.

The result is a remote church that stands aloof from the road in front of it and the town green beyond that.  It does not encourage new visitors to approach and appears to play no part in the life of the Sudbury community.

The Goal

The Landscape Committee has undertaken a project to remedy this situation and make the First Parish Meeting House more open and welcoming. We have five goals:

  1. To open the church up to the town center and enhance its appearance.
  2. To make the front of the church useful by making it more attractive, comfortable and inviting.
  3. To give the main entry a revived function and friendliness.
  4. To create a place for celebrations, photography and group events.
  5. To provide foot, carriage and wheelchair access to the front of the church.

The Plan

We developed a plan to create a terrace in front of the steps below the main doors.  The terrace will be paved with natural stones that are historically compatible and will provide a flat, stable surface that won’t erode over time.  A wide, handicapped-accessible walkway will connect the terrace with the parking lot.  The entire structure will be landscaped to improve the view from the town center.

This is actually not a new project.  The idea for accomplishing it was first raised in 1996 and the first plan was created three years later–but with no funding.  Thus the plan had two phases that would enable the committee to spread the cost over several years.

  • Phase 1 focused on improving drainage around the church and this was completed before the end of 1999.  We removed old, cracked asphalt skirt and replaced it with a waterproof liner held down by Belgian cobbles.  This phase also included five drywells and the final cost was $10,645
  • Phase 2 involved the walkway, terrace and landscaping and was to have been completed by 2001.  Yet it is still not complete 17 years later.  Why?  The answer is simple:  we have been raising money and saving for it since 1999 but the costs increase every year and we are still not close to having the required amount.

Funding the Project

chrysanthemum sale, First Parish of Sudbury

Chrysanthemum Sale

Our main fundraising project has been the annual Chrysanthemum Sale.  This event raised between $600 and $1,100 but the profits have declined every year since 2008 due to the increased cost of materials.  More and more stores sell these plants for lower and lower prices as they take advantage of volume discounts.  Our small event simply could not compete, despite the hard work that went into it, and the Landscape Committee voted to cancel the sale in 2013.

In addition, we spent $8,000, largely from our own funds and a dedicated Mum Sale, to the Habitat for Humanity house on Dutton Road.  This was a huge amount of money for our small budget and it really cut into saving for the Welcoming People project.

What about the Landscape Committee’s budget.  Now, at its highest, our budget is $1,900 a year and that covers a lot of things.  We have received several personal gifts dedicated to this project, however, and we have saved money.  To date, the Welcoming People fund contains just over $17,000.

Yet even with those donations and our the savings from our fund-raising events, and dedicating 100% of the committee’s budget for the next 60 years, the Landscape Committee cannot acquire enough money to complete Phase 2 on our own.

What Would the New Entry Look Like?

Terrace plan, First Parish of SudburyThe terrace would be shaped like a rectangle with a semi-circular apron that reflects the shape of the demi-lune window in the church’s front pediment.   Made of bluestone slabs, it would extend 20 feet out from the front steps, and be 14 feet across.  A bluestone path would connect along the south side of the church to connect the terrace to the parking lot.  Eventually it will connect with a path from the Town Common that will be created as part of the Sudbury Town Center project to improve traffic flow at the intersection.

Quotes and Costs

Over the years, the Landscape Committee has solicited multiple bids and proposals for this project.  The scope of the project and the materials have changed several times, however, making a direct comparison difficult.  (Some estimates include both phases as well as additional work, for example.)  Recently, Deborah Kruskal redesigned and re-specified the project to arrive an updated cost of between $29,320 and $33,227.

As we currently have $17.027 in the budget, this leaves a sizable delta between what funds in hand and funds needed–almost $13,000.

Next Steps

The next step is to present this project to the congregation and determine whether the members think it is worth completing.  Some of this has already been done but we need to present the information to many more people.  The Welcoming People project benefits the enter First Parish–and the town of Sudbury–not just the Landscape Committee so we need to involve everyone.  It could possibly benefit the fund-raising activities of other First Parish committees as well.

If the answer is “yes,” and the First Parish decides to implement the improve options, we need to identify new sources of funding to make up the $13,000 delta.  Then we can review the last proposal, identify vendors to do the work and set a starting date.

Welcoming People, Landscape Committee, First Parish of Sudbury

Welcoming People Project Timeline

Summary

In summary, the First Parish Landscape Committee believes that 17 years of planning and fund-raising is long enough.  We would like to complete this project in 2014 and we ask your help to make that happen. When the Town Center project rolls out, we’ll be ready to connect to it and take advantage of it.  We have worked long and hard to make this dream a reality but we need your agreement, your support, and your resources to make that happen.