How we learned to lean into our
Covenant of Welcome with a new bathroom

A story of St. Peter's Bathroom Evolution Project

Fall 2021


Senior Pastor Lori Bievenour was on fire. “Who are we?” she demanded. Pastor Lori was the middle of her Sunday meditation during worship, and we didn’t have any good answers for her. Sure, we had been participating in Family Promise for decades; we had a number of other social, economic, and civil justice teams working on meaningful projects. But something was missing, and Pastor Lori was determined to show us the gap.

 

“We say we are welcoming and affirming, but consider someone who identifies as non-binary. How are we showing our inclusivity when our bathrooms are labeled Men and Women?” she told us. Shortly after the service ended, I was approach by several congregants. Various people said, “What will it take? How much money do we need? I can help. I want to help.” Very quickly, several people turned into more people and we started to figure out the Bathroom Evolution Team. Lucky for us, two of our congregants are architects and both were willing to serve on the team. Another was an expert in fundraising for social justice issues and he signed up.

 

By February of 2019, we started looking at a preliminary design. The design was family friendly and accessible, but not gender neutral. Various teams reviewed this rough draft and it helped us really define the goal. Yes, we needed a bathroom that was gender neutral. A revised design followed, and then another design, and finally we got to the point where we could get an idea of the cost. The first estimate was $50k, and the fundraising started in earnest.

 

One of the early designs, when we were close to figuring out the space.

Some of us wrote articles for the Epistle about the project. Members of the church followed up with detailed questions, wanting to work through all the details. Along the way, many of us worked to become better allies. Listening to some among us, we reading articles like “Peeing in Peace.” If you are interested, the article can be found here:

 

https://transgenderlawcenter.org/resources/public-accommodations/peeing-in-peace

 

Others found other gender-neutral bathrooms in the Indianapolis area and shared photos. Our preschool team chimed in and said they would love to get more bathrooms.

 

In June of 2019, we voted as a congregation to spend $50k on this project. Some of the volunteers associated with managing our finances set up an electronic fund and a form so anyone could easily donate for the bathroom project.

 

The money came in with $20 or $50 (or $5) donations. We got to $20k surprisingly quickly. In early January 2020, a donor gave us $30k and we cheered! We were finally ready to start the project.

 

But the pandemic happened, and all of our focus was now on how to navigate the pandemic. How do we shut down a building? How do we handle worship virtually? How do we run a preschool safely? So much of this was new to us and it took a lot to figure it out. The bathroom project took a back seat. Our building was closed.

 

Late in 2020, we picked up the project again. As we all know, construction costs changed dramatically during the pandemic. The design was refined and went out to bid again. This time, the estimate was $120k.

 

Battered by the pandemic and the revised estimate, we slowly started the fundraising again. The architects poured over the bids and looked for ways to cut costs. Our selected contractor helped identify a few areas to cut costs and the architects found more. The Governance team studied the detailed scope of work looking for ideas. We ended up with an estimate of $100k.

 

This time, the money was slower to come in. But the fund inched up and finally got to within shouting distance of the goal. We had to lock down our vendor and commit to a timeframe. Work began in fall of 2021.

 

Progress!

 

 

The official ribbon cutting on October 26, 2021

Like many construction projects, especially during a time of supply chain challenges, the project took longer than expected. Finally, on October 26, when architect and Building & Grounds Lead Craig Penquite cut the rainbow colored ribbon, we all cheered. Pastor Lori then conducted a bathroom blessing.


A Bathroom Blessing

God of all, 

Who planted a seed in our minds

Who encouraged us to live into our covenant of welcome and

who indeed sees humans for who they are

Beautiful

And unique

And each of them quite, quite expressive of the sacred.

 

We give thanks that his project was

able to become reality

From a dream

Although still nearing completion,

it is already causing hearts

To be stirred

And minds to be changed

and the fullness of your love to be shown.

 

So help us to finish up those details

To find those soft places in our hearts to welcome all

Not just in the bathroom when we might be right next to one another

But still with our own privacy.

 

But also as we exist and continue to live our faith in the world

But it’s true that maybe there is some awkwardness in

Blessing a bathroom

But somehow it seems important

that as we celebrate that we are

Better together.

 

We invite your presence and

remember that your dreams are

Expressed in our work

In our intentions

And in our generosity.

 

Thank you for guiding this process

For linking us up with amazing skilled visionaries and workers

And for helping us to live into all that this bathroom represents

In that spirit of inclusion and with gratitude.

 

We pray.

 

Amen