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BY COLIN MIXSON
Lower Manhattan’s oldest church closed its doors last week for a two-year, $100-million renovation, which will expand and modernize the historic house of worship to accommodate a growing flock of latter-day pilgrims, according to the church’s rector.
“We’re excited that this will provide more space for people Downtown and visitors from around the world to worship, and to attend concerts and lectures,” said Rev. Dr. William Lupfer of Trinity Church. “The whole point of doing this is for the community to gather around things we all value, and come together Downtown.”
The 172-year-old Episcopal church, which first opened on Broadway at the foot of Wall Street in 1846 as the third incarnation of the 321-year-old parish, will benefit from some long-overdue renovation work which will mostly pass unseen among worshippers, consisting mostly of electrical, plumbing, and plaster work, although the aging stained-glass windows lining the church’s clerestory will be replaced with new designs, according to Lupfer.
A far more noticeable aspect of the multi-million-dollar project will be the redesign of Trinity’s chancel — where the choirs sing and the reverends preach — that will see the section more closely resemble architect Richard Upjohn’s original vision for the church, before it was expanded sometime in the ’70s to “capture the style of worship at the time,” according to Lupfer.
“It brought the liturgical action closer to the people,” the reverend said. “What we’re doing is bringing the people closer to the liturgical action.”
The new work will see the chancel cut down in size to permit the enlargement of Trinity’s nave, which should be able to accommodate an additional 140 congregants at a parish that sees about 850 worshippers every Sunday, or about twice as many people as the church served in 2008, the reverend said.
“Downtown is a much more vibrant community now, so we’re going to bring it back to the original formation and we’ll have many more seats than we did,” said Lupfer.
A new pipe organ will replace the digital one currently in use, which itself replaced a previous traditional organ destroyed by the dust that settled over Lower Manhattan in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, destroying the instrument in much the same way as how the toxic cloud has cut short the lives of so many first responders and Ground Zero workers.
“It was destroyed by the same thing that killed the first responders — dust,” said Lupfer. “An organ is like a lung, and the dust just took it out of commission.”
And the reverend stressed that the new instrument will be tailor-made to suit the church, being neither too quiet, nor too loud.
“We’re not going to put a 20-horsepower engine in a go kart,” said Lupfer.
Another major cornerstone of the project is bringing the church into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and the parish will install ramps, along with other accessibility features, at all entrances throughout the house of worship, making it completely accessible, according to Lupfer.
Trinity’s so-called “rejuvenation” project features numerous other bells and whistles, including a new sound system, new lighting, a moveable alter, gender-neutral bathrooms, a renovated choir room, and a glass canopy located on the church’s south-side, which will keep processionals dry during inclement weather.
The parish hopes to wrap up work on the project sometime in spring of 2020, with worship continuing at Trinity’s Chapel of All Saints, located just north of the church, except for Sunday’s, when the 11:15 am service featuring the Choir of Trinity Wall Street will be moved to nearby St. Paul’s Chapel at 209 Broadway.