Church volunteers help build 40 new chairs, camaraderie

It is not unusual to have an event or accomplishment made by a community group or a local church that is worth sharing.

With that in mind, the worship and music committee of Melville United Church wanted to share News of a successful project that was entirely the work of church volunteers.

In the sanctuary, the seating in the choir loft consisted of long curved pews. To accommodate children’s programs, dramas, and other musical events it was necessary to remove those pews. They were heavy and awkward to remove. From various members came the suggestion to use chairs instead.

A variety of styles were considered but they were found to be too expensive, especially those constructed of oak.

The organist at Melville, Matthias Schmidt, is also an organ builder and is therefore well trained in fine woodworking. At the time, he was working at Gober Organs, in Elora.  Late last year, the organ factory was available because the own­er was planning some changes, and after some discussion Melville members decided to accept the offer to use the factory.

Volunteers decided to build 40 chairs. Three local churches lent their wooden choir loft chairs as samples from which to make drawings. The best features were used and a plan was developed.

As a choir member and avid woodworker, Don Grant offer­ed to team up with Schmidt and organize the project.

Many volunteers came forward, including two women –  one who expertly sewed the material for the chair backs and another who helped with final assembly.

Grant said he was told some wives volunteered the help of their husbands just to get them out of the house. The volunteers started on a Monday, running rough oak boards through a planer and saw, cutting to size. Later in the week, a crew came in to sand.

By Friday afternoon of the same week, the group had the components assembled and stained. Then, with perfect timing, they were offered the use of a paint shop. John Cuming, of John’s Auto Body, was go­ing to Haiti to help on a mission trip, so he donated the use of his shop so a beautiful lacquer  finish could be applied to the chairs.

Final assembly was completed over a number of weeks in a basement room in the church, with over 30 people involved. The volunteers all got to know one another better and appreciated the various skills each person brought to the task, including some who were great storytellers and were able to keep the days full of laughter and good will.

The choir is now enjoying the comfortable new chairs and it is easier to re-arrange the space for different events. The extra chairs are used in the chapel for meetings or for worship.

Because of volunteer labour, the cost turned out to be approximately 25% of factory-made chairs.

What the group is celebrating though, is that the project brought so many people to­gether to share their time and skills.