Heaven and Earth united


Expansion project connects past, present and future at Episcopal church

  • The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation recently began a renovation and expansion that will add seating to the sanctuary.
    The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation recently began a renovation and expansion that will add seating to the sanctuary.

Preserving the past, while looking toward the future.

That is the task of Rev. Bentley Manning and the staff of The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation during an expansion project that kicked off at the beginning of November.

“We believe wherever Christ is, heaven and earth are united,” Manning said on Monday. “We want this project to reflect our vision for the future, but at the same time we are not making any changes to the historic chapel. In fact we are hoping to build upon that amazing DNA as we enhance the main sanctuary.”

Protective fencing has been put in place along Main Street as construction crews begin the task of expanding the church. A more inviting entrance from Main Street is one of the key aspects of the project.

“We are going to add two large doors facing Main Street, so everyone is very clear where to enter and exit,” Manning said. “Right now we have multiple entrances and it can be confusing depending on your reason for visiting the church. Then you get inside and it’s like a maze.”

The idea to expand and remodel the church came to fruition during the development of a master plan two years ago. Following the planning process, the church kicked off a capital campaign to raise the needed funds.

“Our members have been so supportive of the project, and so generous with their donations, it’s really been beyond what I expected,” Manning said. “This project is very exciting and a lot of people have put their time and effort into it already.”

Along with a revamp of the Main Street entrance, the new expansion will increase the amount of seating in the main sanctuary at The Church of the Incarnation. Roughly 70 additional seats will be added, taking the capacity up to approximately 270 parishioners. 

Manning noted that the need for more seating was clear prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the pre-coronavirus world we were seeing Sunday services with 140-150 parishioners in the offseason and as many as 300 during the summer,” Manning said. “We have been very fortunate that our attendance has increased over the past two years. Eventually, we hope to get back to pre-pandemic levels and this expansion will help us accommodate everyone.”

To complete the project, the church is working with famed architecture firm Cram and Ferguson of Boston. While the expansion and renovation are in progress, the church offices have relocated to an office on Main Street above the Highland Hiker.

“Ralph Cram was a prominent Gothic architect in the early 1900’s and he started the firm we are using,” Manning said. “Not only was he an amazing architect, he was also an Episcopalian. He designed and built some of the most famous and iconic Episcopal churches in the United States.”

To compliment the architectural vision of the church, Manning noted that several artisans have been employed to create an ornate décor that fits with the feel of Highlands and the tradition of the Church of the Incarnation.

“It’s important to us that the renovation fit within the community, so we reached out to blacksmiths, woodworkers, painters, etc. that are going to create pieces for inside the church,” Manning said. “Everything from rhododendron door handles, to cast iron fixtures.”

While leaning on the traditional look and feel for the expansion, Manning did note that the project will come with some new-age necessities.

“The church will be American Disabilities Act compliant and it will be much more energy efficient as far as the lighting and the heating and cooling,” Manning said. “Nothing in the actual architecture will be ‘modern’ but there will be some modern benefits.”

The expansion and renovation project is expected to be completed by June of 2021.