St John's Anglican Cathedral

St John's Anglican Cathedral
The Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Divine, St. John's, Antigua, West Indies

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Restoration Deans

The Restoration of St. John’s Cathedral has been a project that has spanned the lives of many Deans.  The restoration was started by Rev. Carl Major during the time that the Right Rev. Orland Lindsay was acting Dean.  This section seeks to honour the contributions that all the Deans have made and to remember those who have died.
The Right Rev Orland Ugham Lindsay
Jan 1971—Jul 1971

The Very Rev  Fitzroy Elderfield Pestaina
1971 –1976

The Very Rev Hilton Manessah Carty

The Very Rev William Vincent Lake

The Very Rev J. Rudolph Smithen

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Church within a Church – A Building within a Building

Timber House Frame with Mortise and Tenon Joints


Wooden Floor Beam in the Cathedral

We have all heard this description of the Cathedral but we are now starting to see exactly what this means.  The Cathedral is two separate buildings each with its own unique structure that share a foundation.  The wooden structure consists of a timber frame made up of large wooden beams that run in the floor, in the walls, up the columns and into the roof.  These large beams, some measuring as much as 12” x 12” are joined together mostly using mortise and tenon joints.  This old method of joining wooden beams is done by cutting out or mortising a hole in one beam and cutting down part of the other beam to fit into that hole.  The parts are pinned together with wooden rods or dowels that pass through both pieces.  This timber frame is essentially the skeleton of the Cathedral.  It is to this frame that the wooden pitch pine interior paneling is fastened. 

Wooden Wall Beams and Outer Wall Brick lining

Wood Columns

Wooden Beams in the Roof
The exterior walls consist of cut stone walls that have an inner brick lining.  These walls run from the foundation outer walls all the way up to the parapets that surround the roof.  The only other stone structures in the Cathedral were the aisles stone slabs that rested on the inner foundation walls and on some of the wooden floor beams. 

We can now see the idea behind the engineering.  The outer stone walls shielded the wooden structure in times of hurricanes.  The same walls would then be encouraged to fall outwards in the event of a major earthquake.  This would make their repair/replacement relatively easy as the inner building remained intact.  We are using this feature in our restoration plans.  We are restoring the inner wooden building first.  After that is finished we can then restore the outer building while we worship within.

Parapet Wall Showing Inner Bricks

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Termite Extermination - Stage 1

Termite Extermination Plan

We have decided to exterminate the termites in the Cathedral in four stages.
Stage 1
Spray the foundations with a liquid chemical that will kill the subterranean termites there and leave behind a residue that will continue to protect the Cathedral.
Stage 2
Fumigate the entire Cathedral with a fumigant that will kill every termite in each and every nook and cranny of the church.
Stage 3
Spray the interior walls of the Cathedral after the wood paneling has been removed.

Stage 4
Spray the wooden beams in the roof that are not termite infested. 

This plan combined with the use of only pressure treated lumber and ongoing maintenance treatments will minimize any future termite infestations.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Building to Last

A year ago I stumbled accross the Archbishop's of Canterbury's New Year's Day message 2008.  I found it quite stirring and from time to time I reflect on it.  While the message is one about the environment and the creation of waste by modern society, it is a message that can be applied to a restoration. 

"In a society where we think of so many things as disposable; ...... do we end up tempted to think of people and relationships as disposable?"

"Building to last is something we all understand and if we live in a context where we construct everything..on the assumption they will be replaced before long, what have we lost?"

"God is involved in building to last. ....  He doesn’t give up on the material of human lives.....God doesn’t do waste.  He doesn’t regard anyone as a waste of space as not worth His time.  And so a life that communicates a little bit of what God is like, is a life that does not give up.  That doesn’t settle down with a culture of waste and disposability, whether with people or with things."
 I see this philosophy extending to restoration.  Even after 162 years of use, we are not ready to dipose of the St. John's Cathedral.  If we do what would we have lost?  God is a restoration God because He does not do waste.  He restores, redeems, justifies and saves us through His Son.
The Restoration of St. John's Cathedral might not merely be the restoration of a historic building, it might truly be the restoration of ourselves.

Dean Rudolph Smithen

Dean Smithen often tells us that it seems like he is involved in extensive restoration works at every church he is posted.  From Anguilla to St. Kitts and now Antigua.  The Restoration of the Cathedral has been a challenge that every dean has faced as far back as I can remember.  Dean Baker, Dean Carty, Dean Lake and now Dean Smithen.  Let us hope and pray that Dean Smithen will be the last dean to shoulder this least for the next 100 years or so.

Dean J. Rudolph Smithen hopefully the last of the restoration deans.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What does the restoration mean to you?

I started this blog in response to a request from committee and vestry members to keep a diary.  Truth be told with only one exception (Rememberance Day) I have not really posted my thoughts and opinions on this forum.  This blog is principally about the restoration construction activities that take place at the church.  More often or not when speaking about this blog I often say the blog, not my blog.  I prefer the restoration to have its own spirit and own identity and not be too unduly influenced by my opinions.  But who am I fooling?  Being invovled at so many levels and in so many ways, that is wishful thinking.

So now I am moved me to do something different today.  No doubt I am motivated to respond in someway to the barage of criticism that we have received in the press lately (Is the Cathedral's Integrity Being Undermined?).  And as much as I have tried to avoid it I will be making an "appearance" this Monday on Observer radio's Voice of the People.  Truth is the cirticism is actually a Godsend.  And much of the fears expressed have been due to a lack of information.  People have the right to know and criticism can be a good thing. 

But while my response on Monday will be to inform and assure people, the purpose of this post will be to publicise my personal motivation on this restoration. 

"Where there is no vision, the people perish." Proverbs 29:18

This restoration is and will continue to be technically challenging, financially intimidating and emotionally draining.  What manner of insanity possess us to attempt this at these times?  There are people who claim that we should close the Cathedral and build a new one.  The Restoration of St. John's Cathedral is worth it because of the beauty and significance of the building.  It is also an active house of worship.  Furthermore many Antiguans have expressed sentimental feelings for the Cathedral.  These are all good reasons for restoration.  But for me I see that the Restoration is a sermon.  A sermon in which all of us have a part to play and a part to say.  I do not believe that God needs the Cathedral in order to express His power and majesty.  He has far greater wonders on this planet and throughout the Universe.  But I believe He is pleased with the effect that the Cathedral has on our hearts.  The challenges we will meet and wrestle with and overcome will only be worthwhile in so far as they bring us closer to God and say to the world that we are a people who love our Creator.  Technically challenging, financially intimidating, emotionally draining but spiritually uplifting.

"Preach the Gospel always; use words only when necessary."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Termite and water damaged wall beams

Interior wall repair from Phase II will have to done now as there is no way we will be able to refasten the interior wooden panels to these rotting timbers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Early Electrical Wiring

We have seen quite a bit of early electrical wiring in the Cathedral.  My internet research has yielded that this was called "Knob and tube" wiring.
This next picture shows where the mains came into the building.  Note the ceramic tubes in the wooden louvres.

Here is the other side of that wall.  Note the structural cracks and the deteriorating stones.  God is keeping us busy.

Roof Works recommence

We have restarted the works on the roof. 

The dry rotted rafters have been removed.

The copper main gutters that lie just inside the parapet wall have been removed along with their timber supports. You can now see the brick inner lining of the outter walls.

Unfortunately we have uncovered some areas of termite damage in some of the main timbers.  These will also have to be replaced.