Building and Grounds Action Team: Keeping Follen Standing Strong

Adding to Alex Bromley’s recent post about the workings of Program Council, Chris Walters now expands our Leaders Blog to include reflections on the work done by Follen’s 7 Action Teams. 

Chris Walters, Chair of Buildings and Grounds Action Team

The Follen octagon is the oldest standing church structure in the Town of Lexington, and it is the Buildings and Grounds Action Team’s responsibility to keep it that way.

October’s worship theme is “Fear,” and I can relate! As the current BGAT Chair, I am deathly afraid of doing anything to harm this wonderful sanctuary.

The Buildings and Grounds Action Team maintains the Follen campus, including the Sanctuary, the Community Center, the Marshman Center, and the Christmas Tree Lot.  We meet in the Marshman Center on the third Wednesday of each month during the school year from 7:30pm to 9:00pm, and we often have yummy snacks.

BGAT Sub-groups and Specialties

Within BGAT there are a few sub-committees and areas of special interest, including the Accessibility Sub-Committee, the Gallery Sub-Committee, and the Interiors Committee.  The Accessibility

Laying bricks for Follen's new path
Laying bricks for Follen’s new path

Committee has worked out some plans for enhancing universal access to the campus and is working with the Capital Campaign Committee to refine those strategies.  The Gallery Committee focuses on the Anne Smith Room and coordinates the art exhibits that are displayed there, while the Interiors Committee takes a broader view in coordinating overall interior decor.

In addition we have members with particular expertise in audio visual systems, gardening, design, and construction.  Our ranks include architects and landscape architects, engineers and builders, as well as a wide range of people from other backgrounds who take a special interest in maintaining and upgrading our wonderful spaces.

BGAT Projects

Some of the larger projects that BGAT has undertaken in recent years:

  • renovation of the Sanctuary
  • renovations to the Community Center bathrooms and exterior entrance
  • upgrading the campus fire alarm system
  • painting the interiors and exteriors
  • upgrades to the audio visual systems
  • a number of smaller projects such as the addition of the new Follen sign in the front yard.

The larger projects are hired out to contractors and BGAT manages them, and we often self-perform the smaller projects.

One of the challenges that we are continuing to address is the proper insulation and ventilation of the sanctuary attic.  Like so many other

Recent renovations to the Community Center bathrooms
Recent renovations to the Community Center bathrooms

buildings, Follen suffered damage from the winter storms of 2014. Follen is over 175 years old and has been retrofit over the years with heating, plumbing, and electrical systems that it was not originally designed for, and the winter storms revealed places where the structure was not “breathing” properly and allowed for damaging ice dams to form. BGAT has been methodically making insulation and ventilation upgrades that accommodate the new technologies while respecting the historic architecture.

In addition to the projects, BGAT works with the Church Sexton to maintain the day-to-day campus operations, and we have an active landscape contingent who work diligently to plant and beautify our grounds.

Why do I do it?

Annual BGAT members (and spouses) dinner
Annual BGAT members (and spouses) dinner

I have served on different Follen committees over the years, and I have a particular affinity to BGAT because of my background in building design and construction, but that background is not necessary to be a BGAT member.  Many of the members are former BGAT Chairs themselves, who bring a wealth of experience and support to the Action Team.

As a bunch of diverse Unitarians, it is hard to say how (or if) we all find spiritual satisfaction in our work.  (I myself am a fallen Catholic who attended Quaker school and now identifies as an atheist Unitarian). But I think we do find great reward in maintaining and enhancing our community’s physical history, and preserving a spiritual safe place for like-minded people of strong liberal values.

It is my great pleasure to serve Follen Church, and I invite you all to come sit in on B&G.

Warm regards,

Chris Walters

Chair, Building and Grounds Action Team