205 No. Fourth Street | Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70801 | 225-387-5141 | church @ stjamesbr.org |                

A Word from the Rector

This message was sent and posted 7 months ago.  

Glory into Glory

Wed, January 02, 2019

Merry Ninth Day of Christmas and Happy New Year!

On the last Sunday after the Epiphany and before the start of Lent, we pray in our collect:

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

We know so many blessings here at St. James. We have a legacy of being a vibrant community, reaching out with new ministries in service of our parish family and out into the world as the hands and feet of Christ. To continue celebrating this rich inheritance of blessing, we at St. James need to continually open ourselves to transformation: clearly not from failure to success, or infidelity to faithfulness, but pray that we might be changed “from Glory to Glory.” 

Beginning Sunday, January 6, we will undertake a deliberate and directed conversation about how God is calling St. James – now – to continue to be transformed “from Glory to Glory.” This three-week program will have two components each week: a short Sunday presentation followed by small group discussion, all during the Sunday School hour starting at 9:15 a.m. in Bishops Hall.

Your participation in this class can have an important impact on the life of the parish as the vestry and staff continuously seek to discern what God has in store for our future, and we need your participation. I ask you to make this three-week commitment – January 6, January 13, and January 20– covenanting to attend Adult Christian Formation at 9:15 a.m. in Bishops Hall. Even if you must miss one or two classes, then I hope you will still participate as you are able. Also, the nursery will be open for your infants and toddlers, and there will be regularly scheduled children’s Sunday School for your youngsters during this program.

Let us build upon our legacy as we continue to be “changed into his likeness from glory to glory.”

Merry Christmas,

The Rev. Chris Duncan, Rector

This message was sent and posted 8 months ago.  

Campus Improvement Updates

Wed, December 12, 2018

The Love of Christ Always
The Rev. Chris Duncan, Rector

From the birth of the church, Christ’s disciples have been courageous for the sake of the gospel and growing the kingdom of God. Whether it was St. Peter preaching on Pentecost in Jerusalem before the very people who had cried out “Crucify him!” on Good Friday, or St. James, who boldly professed his faith before Harold Agrippa only to become the first apostle martyred, the boldness of our faith was witnessed. Then, as the church grew and expanded to the four corners of the earth, followers of Jesus continued in that same spirit of perseverance. This was true, again, when a small group of Episcopalians began to gather for worship in 1819 shortly after Baton Rouge was incorporated in 1817. That tenacious pioneering spirit for the sake of the kingdom of God led to the great church we know and love as St. James. And that same spirit has been alive ever since as our faithful response to “The Love of Christ Always.”

When I was in the search process to become your rector, I was blown away by the courage and faith it took for a congregation to undertake a capital campaign during an interim period. This is not the norm for most churches. However, the needs were great and pressing. Therefore, the good people of St. James faithfully responded once more and the stated goal of $2 million was achieved rather quickly in “The Love of Christ Always” campaign. This incredible feat is worth celebrating and the vital work to address the needs has begun.

Since that time, new areas of concern have been discovered or have gotten worse. The needs of our facilities have grown to include a fire suppression system in the church (which currently does not have any), a deteriorating parking area, an organ that will cost nearly as much to repair as to purchase a new pipe organ, old electrical wiring, and the list continues. In fact, those are only the most pressing items, but there is more that needs to be addressed such as painting the interior and exterior of the buildings while also finishing out entire rooms. Therefore, what follows below is the story of what has been accomplished to date, where we currently stand, and what we are hoping to address in the near future. The Vestry and various sub-committees are busy prioritizing the needs and working to make sure we continue to be good stewards of the facilities that have been given to us.

In the end, we will have a gap in funds between what was raised initially in “The Love of Christ Always” campaign as compared to what is required to address all of the repair and restoration needs. I am hopeful that we will have more concrete numbers to share in the near future. If you would like to make a new or increased pledge in the meantime that is over and above your regular giving, then please let me know. If extending the period of collection would help in your giving effort, then that is also a possibility. The church will be in a better position to share more details in the weeks and months ahead, but at this point any new or increased gift will go a long way toward addressing these pressing issues.

The reality is that these projects are too important to ignore and just as St. James has always responded to the calling of sharing “The Love of Christ Always” so, too, will we continue the mission and ministry of building up the kingdom of God by serving as the hands and feet of Christ.


Sr. Warden Update: Where we have been and where are we now
Gerry Sulzer, Sr. Warden

The church restoration work started in earnest with a capital campaign in early 2017 having a goal of $2 million in pledges to be paid over a three-year period. The goal was based on projected spending:

  • $1,300K for exterior repairs
  • $400K for organ repair
  • $100K for interior plaster repair
  • $200K for undefined repairs plus contingency

The cost of the first two items were based on budget estimates. The last two items were allowances based on our best guess. A total of $2,239,000 was pledged during the campaign with $1,921,000 collected in the 18 months since the end of the campaign and the beginning of the three-year collection period.

We hired Tipton Associates in March 2017 to provide architectural consultation and construction oversight for the exterior work and contracted with Durable Slate to perform the exterior restoration work. The scaffolding for the exterior work went up in June of 2017 to provide access to do the exterior work. Over the next eight months, all the brick mortar was ground out to a depth of at least 1” and replaced with a compatible mortar, the window sills and molding were repaired, re-caulked, and painted, and the plexiglass protecting all our stained-glass windows was removed and replaced with stronger, more durable lexan coverings. The work was completed in late January 2018 and the scaffolding was completely removed in early February 2018.

Through November of 2018, we have spent a total of $1,315,146.09 from the capital campaign funds, primarily on the exterior restoration of our historic church. A breakdown on these expenditures is as follows:

● Architectural Fees $      11,134.59
● Durable Restoration Brick Work $ 1,302,571.50
● Bell Tower Access Repairs (Interior $        1,620.00
● Preliminary Re-landscaping Design $           620.00

We believe all the expenses will be eligible for tax credit and have filed the Part III application, the last step in obtaining the tax credit. We will receive a tax credit of ~$325,000 if all our expenses are accepted. Sale of this tax credit will net ~$260K in cash which can added to the remaining capital campaign funds for use on interior restoration projects.

We will shortly contract with Tipton Associates to provide architectural guidance, design, and construction oversight for all the interior work. The project will proceed in two phases. Phase I consists of developing a schematic design scope and cost for each of the proposed interior renovation projects. Tipton’s cost for Phase I is $27.5K. The budget cost estimates from Phase I will be used to prioritize and evaluate which proposed renovations we can afford to undertake.

Phase II is actual construction. It involves developing full construction documents, contract bidding and subcontractor selection, permit and plan reviews, and construction administration. Tipton’s cost estimate for Phase II is $82K, based a 6.5% fee on an assumed construction cost of $1.26 million. This fee can change based on actual construction cost. Some yet to be determined amount of all expenses from Phases I & II will be eligible for a tax credit which can also be sold to recover some of the interior renovation expenses.


What Happens Next
Bettsie Miller, Campus Planning Committee Co-Chair

We have several things on the agenda to continue to improve the physical conditions of the church building, and the surrounding area. As a team, members of the Campus Planning Committee have been meeting to discuss additional improvements to the physical structure of the church. The following items are included in our wish list:

  1. Fire suppression: Our church, by age and building code, is exempt from requirements to have interior spaces sprinkled. We believe that it is time to address this issue and to provide protection to our historic church building with a sprinkler system. The committee has met with three licensed, bonded, professional fire suppression companies to address this issue in the most cost effective and aesthetically pleasing manner possible.
  2. Structural needs: With the repair/replacement of the pipe organ, several structural issues in the organ console and pipe areas will be addressed to ensure that the instrument will be capable of supporting worship services for many years into the future.
  3. Moisture control/HVAC improvements: As a part of the organ repair/replacement, moisture control is an important component of the longevity of any organ. This issue becomes even more vital considering the humid Baton Rouge climate. This is also important for the general upkeep of the building. Therefore, we will work to fix moisture issues in the sub-basement of the church. In addition, future benefits may result from upgrading the HVAC system throughout the church. Possible improvements for future requirements may be accomplished with less cost and no additional inconvenience if addressed at this time.
  4. Access to the altar: Changes were made years ago to the positional height of the altar and as a result certain access/egress issues have been identified. Namely, the altar is not easily accessible and the stairs up to the altar are steep and potentially unsafe. Is there a way to maintain the beauty of our altar in that place while also making it safer for the clergy and various volunteers who serve in that sacred space?
  5. Electrical issues: St. James Episcopal Church has had many improvements over the years and all electrical service is currently adequate. However, the electrical system is old and needs to be upgraded to meet current code. Fire suppression work will be accomplished with scaffolding at ceiling height, and it makes sense to upgrade electrical service to current standards at the same time.
  6. Plaster repair/painting: The previous exterior brick/mortar and various roof issues along with numerous hurricanes have left water marks and peeling paint on the plaster in the church building. Now that the sanctuary is again water-tight, we are working to address the issues of water damage throughout the church.
  7. Acoustics: St. James Episcopal Church did not have wall-to-wall carpeting, originally. The current carpet installation is nearing thirty-years old, and there is evident a great deal of moth damage. Our architects are evaluating the most efficient way to improve acoustics across the church while maintaining the beautiful aesthetics of the historic building.
  8. Parking lot: St. James Episcopal Church owns three parking areas that, most generally agree, are not welcoming in appearance and in need of repair. An analysis has been conducted of the space and actual parking needs. From this, a plan has been developed to construct a more welcoming parking space that addresses the non-authorized use of our parking by those not associated with the church or Day School, either as staff, parishioners, Day School families, or authorized parking space renters. At the same time, handicapped parking access also needs to be addressed.
  9. Landscape improvements: Between the scaffolding work around the church building and the bitter cold 2018 winter, many of the plants around the church suffered or died. A landscaping master plan is being developed to address plant and drainage needs to best utilize our space. We are hopeful to begin implementing elements of that master plan as soon as possible. Also, as a downtown church, litter control around the facilities and parking lots is another concern.

As you can see the wish list is long, and there are some needs that are not even addressed in that list. However, the Campus Planning Committee is working to establish priorities and develop a plan to satisfactorily address the safety and preservation of our church.

After numerous meetings with various individuals and businesses to address the multitude of needs, the committee felt that the best path forward was to request proposals from various architectural firms to gain assistance in not only planning the path forward, but in scheduling work, identifying best practices, understanding city codes, and value engineering. The architect will also help us accomplish the needs of St. James in an efficient and effective manner that will ultimately save us money. An invitation was sent to seven local architectural firms. The review committee selected Tipton and Associates to guide us through this construction, renovation, and restoration project. As more information is available, the Campus Planning Committee looks forward to sharing those details with the congregation.


Making a Joyful Noise
Sue Larisey, Organ Committee Chair

Throughout many of the Psalms there is a repeated refrain, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” For forty-three years, St. James Episcopal Church’s organ has accompanied our congregation in just this effort. However, over the past eight years, there has been much discussion about the state of our organ.

The current organ was built in 1975 by the Schlicker Organ Co. In 2010, Tom Wood sent a letter to the Vestry about the condition of the organ. Mr. Wood is a nationally recognized organ builder and has worked on our organ for over 25 years. In his letter, Mr. Wood states that during his time of maintaining the organ, his recommendations for improvements to the organ became recommendations to replace large parts, or all, of the organ due to disrepair. Therefore, Mr. Wood was hired as a consultant and discussions were held to determine the feasibility of repairing the organ in lieu of replacing it.

A second consultant, Jack Bethards of the Schoenstein Organ Co., was also brought in to conduct an assessment of the organ. Both consultants ultimately felt it would be best to have a new organ designed and installed, because the cost to repair and refurbish the current organ will nearly cost the same as a new organ and still not be completely what is wanted in an instrument. In order to be good stewards, some pipes can also be recycled from the current organ. With support from the Vestry, the Organ Committee has talked with several organ builders recommended to us and included a visit to Mobile, Alabama to hear an organ built by Goulding and Wood. It is our hope a decision will be made by the end of the year.


Killgore Hall School Plans
Andy McCall, School Board Vice President

At the same time plans were initially being made to demolish Killgore Hall, our Head of School, Lauren Ray, was formulating a plan to repurpose the building and grow the Day School. Lauren’s idea was to create the St. James Early Learning Center. This new, early learning center would accomplish two very important goals:

  1. Helping to meet the current daycare demand in downtown Baton Rouge with a quality Early Childhood Learning Center; and,
  2. Encouraging the growth of St. James Day School by growing the school “down;” bringing in younger children, helping develop a larger base for future St. James Day Schoolers.

Lauren created a well thought-out business plan, and a committee was established to understand the cost and implications of renovating Killgore Hall.

The committee interviewed several architecture firms and selected Washer Hill Lipscombe and Cabaniss (“WHLC”) due to their creativity and recent experience designing a day care for Woman’s Hospital. WHLC was authorized to perform “schematic design” work. The schematic design gave the committee enough information about the project to understand its feasibility and cost, and also provided the committee with preliminary floor plans and elevations of the project that were helpful in engaging stakeholders.

Since completion of the schematic design, several important milestones have been achieved:

  1. a renovation budget of $1.1M was established;
  2. significant fundraiser goals for the project were met;
  3. it was determined that the project is feasible and can be completed in time to open for the 2019 school year; and,
  4. WHLC was authorized to complete full construction documents and submit for a building permit. The scope of work for this project includes gutting the interior of the first and second floors, and constructing five new early childhood classrooms for both two- and three-year-olds, administration offices, and indoor play space on the first floor. The second floor will be converted to shell condition for future utilization. Other than a new outside play space and carpool drop-off area on the Fifth Street side of the building, changes to the exterior of the building are limited.

Renovating and repurposing Killgore Hall will allow the Day School to establish an early learning center more quickly and cost effectively than tearing the building down and building from the ground up. It will also allow St. James to impact the minds and hearts of more children and at an earlier age, which is great news for all of St. James Episcopal Church.


Atkinson Hall Elevator Update
Gerry Sulzer, Sr. Warden

A project to replace the Atkinson Hall elevator with a commercial, handicap-accessible elevator was approved and is progressing. The new elevator will be located where the existing elevator is located but will require an expansion of the shaft and some foundation recess work. Design documents were completed, permitting was approved, and the elevator was placed on order. Construction on the shaft modifications will be completed during the Christmas Day School recess. Installation of the elevator will continue into January for a brief period after the recess without any impact on Day School operation. The project will cost $85K with a $10K contingency allowance for potential hidden construction problems. A single $50K donation was made to help fund the project. The remaining cost will be equally shared by the Church and Day School (up to $22.5K each) from their existing capital endowments.


General Maintenance around Campus
Jacques Pourciau, Business Manager

Maintenance items are always present. With a campus full of historic buildings filled with people nearly every day of the week, the facility upkeep is magnified.

We created an electronic ticket system for maintenance requests for employees of the church and school and this has helped us to address concerns in a timely manner.

Our sextons have been very busy with regular things like litter pickup, blowing sidewalks, power washing, light bulbs, air filters, and ceiling tiles. We have also had several unique situations like bee removal in the church and Werlein Hall, window leaks in Bishops Hall, and roof leak repairs on the Ministries Center and Parish/Atkinson Hall. The leaks required interior work such as the replacement of the ceiling in an upstairs restroom and some sheetrock repair in a Sunday school classroom.

We have had the carpets cleaned in Parish/Atkinson Hall and the Ministries Center and painted the exterior doors to Bishops Hall and the front doors of the church.

Our sextons installed lockdown locks in every classroom, and we oversaw the inspection, and some replacing, of every emergency and exit light, and fire extinguisher, and the kitchen hood, as well as the installation of a cellular fire alarm system.

The Property Committee was also able to get the City-Parish to install new handicap parking signs (for Sundays only) on Fourth St. near the church entrance.

Finally, we got a new security system installed that includes cameras that can be viewed remotely to protect our people and property.

All of these maintenance issues are from only the past four months and does not include the regular routine upkeep. As you can see, it is always busy, but worth it to preserve the beautiful campus that helps to serve the mission of St. James.

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