O'Fallon, Illinois

Collaboration: The Key to a Successful Building Project - Part 2

February 19, 2009

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[Editor's Note: This continues Fr. James Deiters' reflection on the need for collaboration in a successful building project. Read Part 1.]

By now we (at St. Clare of Assisi Parish) had formed a “team” of five constituencies: Building Committee (represented parishioners and parish Crucifix.council), Staff, Liturgical Design Consultant, Architect, and General Contractor…but there were more to come.

At any decision-making meeting, if any one of these groups could not be physically present (the architect and liturgical design consultant were not local), we made sure to plan to be in a meeting space in which we could have a conference call in order to include everyone and to keep the full team up-to-date. These open conversations were critical in helping us work through the common tension between wish list, design, budget, and construction possibilities. By this time it was clear that everyone on the team shared a common goal: a building of beauty, quality, and function that was also ecologically friendly.

During this process, our liturgical design consultant never tired of reminding us that there were still two more professional roles to fill to complete the team — the artist(s) and the acoustician.

The Building Committee was already having additional meetings to begin looking at sample portfolios of artists for both the stained glass and statuary. We learned how important it was to choose a stained glass artist early on, so she could be part of the decision about the size and design of the windows. It was clear to see how the final decision about the building design and budget needed to take into consideration the ideas of the artist for the windows. The artist needs to have input early in the window frame designs. If not, the risk is a very costly change order. The stained glass artist selected was Elizabeth Devereaux of Chico, California.

With the selection of acousticians being limited and our time being limited, the committee trusted Ken Griesemer’s recommendation of a sound expert, Dennis Fleischer of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The acoustician also has a critical role early in the process of engineering design, since decisions about heating and cooling ductwork and placement of the HVAC units drastically affect the sound in the worship space. I was able to delegate many of the acoustician conversations to our parish liturgy and music director, Sr. Carolyn McWatters.

Thus, the full team was in place – seven parties with members living in five states: Consultant (New Mexico), Architect (Nebraska), Contractor, Building Committee, and Staff (Illinois), Artist (California), and Acoustician (Michigan). Yet, thanks today’s means of communications, collaboration was possible every step of the way.Rose window installed.

One of the main things I learned was that while I was very comfortable with delegating power and decision-making to others, it often came down to me, the pastor, to make sure that the various parties were in communication with each other. While everyone is good at doing their respective jobs, the pastor still serves like a “switchboard operator,” connecting the parties with one another and making sure the lines of communication are open. One of the most important decision I made as a pastor of the project was to hire a project manager (a part-time role and in this case, a parishioner) to be my representative at meetings I could not attend. He was at the site daily and became the main contact person once the construction began for all detailed questions coming from the many parties involved. This role is absolutely critical so the pastor can still be attentive to the parish’s pastoral needs.

The experience of effective collaboration on the building project has only strengthened my beliefs in its necessity in other levels of parish life. Collaboration affirms and encourages the use of each person’s baptismal gifts and talents. Building a church through its six-year process revealed to me how diverse and amazing are the gifts of Spirit!

Photo credit: John Harter

Rev. James Deiters is pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Parish in O'Fallon, Illinois, USA.


A New Church for St. Clare of Assist Parish: A Pastor's Perspective
Collaboration: The Key to a Successful Building Project (Part 1)

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