A small crew from Bayside Exteriors provided a daylong roller coaster ride at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Sept. 29, fighting wind, rain and an onerous steeple as they attempted to place a new cross overlooking downtown Lewes.
Andrew Lewandowski and Gerardo Hernandez burned through several drills while they worked about 75 feet above the ground, but the duo was finally able to attach the new cross to the steeple at about 5 p.m.
Crowds of people gathered throughout the day, many often appearing mesmerized by the challenging work occurring several stories above them.
The new cross, which is copper-coated steel, replaces a cedar cross that had been atop the steeple since the mid-19th century.
The Rev. Jeffrey Ross, St. Peter’s rector, said the cross was struck by lightning twice recently, once in 2018 and again in 2019. The second strike caused significant damage. The repaired cedar cross is now preserved in the basement of the church.
The cross replacement was just a small part of a larger project to add on to and renovate the historic church. The $1.2 million project adds space for a growing congregation while also transforming behind-the-scenes areas to make better use of limited space. It is the first renovation and upgrade in 117 years.
The original plans for the church anticipated future expansion. Ross said the church area that was expanded was purposely never used for the cemetery that surrounds the building.
“That really enabled us to do all of this work without disturbing any of the graves, and that was really important,” Ross said.
The expansion features two new alcoves off the chancel – the space around the altar – for choir seating, to balance the interior appearance. Space for pews for 40 more people, including people in wheelchairs, has been added in the sanctuary. A new back entrance near the corner of Market and Third streets provides easier access for people coming from that side of the church.
The existing building is the third iteration of the church. The existing structure was completed in the middle of the Civil War. The steeple was added in 1870, and a small addition was built around 1900.
The next phase of the project is anticipated to begin in 2021. Ross said a portion of the parish hall that has no foundation will be demolished and rebuilt. The larger parish hall will also connect to what is now the rectory, which will become offices and classrooms.
The church recently purchased a home across the street, which will become the new rectory.
St. Peter’s worked with RY Johnson as construction manager and Element Design as the architect, plus Mark Chura of Chura & Associates as owner’s representative. Despite being hit with a worldwide pandemic in the middle of the project, Ross said, everything is going fairly well.
St. Peter’s remains virtual for Sunday worship; however, weddings and funerals are able to use the church for in-person services. Ross said they’ve started planning for how to come back to in-person services, but nothing has been finalized.