Covenant Presbyterian Church - Charlotte, NC

A message to the Congregation

Frequently Asked Questions – November 14, 2022

What is P&E’s updated recommendation?
P&E narrowed the Art Task Force’s recommendation to focus on replacing the four stained glass medallions of concern and referred the decision to replace the protective window coverings to the Property Committee. Additionally, based on the congregational feedback, P&E’s recommendation includes providing a matching community grant and offering an opportunity for the congregation to contribute to the projects. Other aspects of the Arts Task Force’s recommendations remain unchanged, including contextualizing the removed and remaining images and continuing the work of engaging and educating the congregation on issues of racial justice.

Why are we not replacing the protective coverings of all the stained glass as part of this work?
Before committing approximately $300,000 to replace the protective coverings, P&E felt it was prudent to assess how effective they have been at preserving and protecting our windows. When they were installed approximately 40 years ago, the Lexan window coverings were fairly new technology, and their long-term effectiveness was untested. For example, while they have protected the windows from physical damage, it’s possible that they have trapped heat or moisture as well. Replacing the medallions identified by the Arts Task Force will require the removal of the protective coverings from the transept windows; that will afford the Property Committee an opportunity to inspect the windows and make an informed decision about how best to maintain them.
Does this undermine the substance of the Arts Task Force’s recommendations?
No. While studying the windows, the Task Force became aware that the protective coverings are nearing the end of their effective life and included that information in its Report as a matter of good stewardship. The Arts Task Force has affirmed that this recommendation was not central to its charge, and the decision whether to replace the coverings is purely an issue of building maintenance.

Why would Covenant make a matching grant to Habitat as part of this work?
Covenant has a long history of supporting community partners and views this as an opportunity to make a contribution associated with this work. The Mission and Outreach Ministry recommended to P&E that Covenant provide a matching grant to Habitat For Humanity of the Charlotte Region in support of the Meadows at Plato Price, an affordable housing development under construction in west Charlotte. The site is the former location of the Plato Price School, the centerpiece of a thriving African American neighborhood that closed in the 1960s.

How much will the project cost?
Based on a proposal from Willett Hauser Architectural Glass Inc. (which originally designed and installed the windows), we estimate the cost to remove and replace the four stained glass medallions (without replacing the protective coverings for those windows) to be $105,000. A matching grant of $105,000 would be made to Habitat. Thus, the anticipated net cost for this project is $210,000.

Any future cost for contextualizing the removed and remaining images in the windows will be determined by the new task force.

How will this project be funded?
We would establish a designated Habitat/Stained Glass fund to which interested members and friends of Covenant can donate. Money raised would be split evenly between the replacing the four stained glass medallions and the Habitat contribution. None of the funds will come from the annual budget (i.e., pledge dollars). If contributions exceed the amount necessary to complete both projects, the excess would be divided between an additional grant to Habitat and a reserve fund for future restoration of our stained glass windows.

If this plan is adopted by Session, donations to the Habitat/Stained Glass fund would be accepted through March 1, 2023.  

Will this impact our existing Mission and Outreach budget?
This is a special giving opportunity that is not part of our annual budget and is in addition to our planned Mission and Outreach activities.

Who will be on the next task force(s)?
P&E will select members for the next task force(s). As is our tradition, the task force will consist of a broad range of perspectives and diverse representation.

Are all members of Session reading the letters submitted by the congregation?
Yes, Session is reading and carefully considering each letter. We greatly appreciate the input from the letters and learning sessions.

Will there be additional opportunities to learn from this work?
Yes, we view this as an ongoing learning opportunity. The new task force(s) will make recommendations on how we will contextualize the removed and remaining images. Additionally, among the recommendations is that Covenant will continue the work of engaging and educating the congregation on issues of racial justice.

Frequently asked questions - September 12, 2022

When and why was the Arts Task Force formed?
The Arts Task Force was formed by Session as part of the Framework for Covenant’s Response to the racial inequities and unrest that exist in our society. It was charged to examine Covenant’s physical buildings and art to determine whether there are “representations that involve individuals or acts supportive of racism” and if there are, to “make a recommendation regarding their presence.” After two years of study and reflection, the Arts Task Force has submitted a report detailing those recommendations (the “Report”), which has been received by Session and commended to the congregation for its consideration.  You are encouraged to read the Report in its entirety. For a fuller explanation of the Arts Task Force’s history and charge, please see Section I of the Report.
Who are the members of the Arts Task Force?  
Will Summerville (Chair), Betty Graybeal, Brad Gritter, Vince Hindman, Jerry Jernigan, Ben Mallicote, Ashley Roehrig, Henry Trexler, Campbell Tucker, Ben Unger and Grace Williams.
What action is being proposed?
The Arts Task Force recommends that Covenant replace four individuals currently located in our History and Service Windows and that we engage in a window preservation/ renovation/ restoration project by providing new protective coverings for all Covenant’s stained-glass windows in the Sanctuary, Chapel, and Narthex.
What individuals are recommended for removal?
After two years of careful study, the Arts Task Force unanimously agreed that the presence of Stonewall Jackson, D.H. Hill, Benjamin Palmer, and Woodrow Wilson are inconsistent with Covenant’s mission.
What criteria were used to decide on the four individuals recommended for removal? 
Criteria were set forth in the Response and the process used by the Arts Task Force can be reviewed in Section II of the Report.
What individuals in the windows/carvings were researched?
All extra-biblical characters featured in our windows were considered.
What resources did the Arts Task Force use in its discernment/education process? 
Many, including nationally recognized church historians, a local historian, and college professors and presidents. For a complete list, please see Section II.C of the Report.

What might be put in these figures’ places?
We anticipate recommendations from an additional Task Force charged with deciding how to replace these figures. These recommendations may include appropriate historical Presbyterian/civic/faith leaders, symbols, or other solutions that more clearly align with our mission and values.  

What about the individuals who have ties to racism/slavery but who were not recommended for removal? 
How will those individuals be acknowledged? This is a complex issue to which the Arts Task Force devoted a great deal of time and consideration. Please see Section IV.B of the Report.
Is the removal of four individuals the extent of the recommendation?
No. The Arts Task Force has recommended a number of additional actions related to contextualization, education of our membership, and worship, as outlined in Section IV.   Additionally, we recommend maintenance and restoration work to all Sanctuary, Narthex, and Chapel windows as described in Proposal Two of Attachment 3.  Covenant’s stained-glass windows are a precious gift to be stewarded with great care, and should be brought back to their original beauty.  
Have any windows been changed/replaced at Covenant previously?
Yes, both the Chapel and the Sanctuary windows have experienced substantial renovation work, including lancet replacement/re-leading, coverings, and reinforcement. The work was performed by the Willet Company which originally designed, created and installed the windows.
Will the replacements change the look of the sanctuary?
Won’t new windows “stick out”? The Arts Task Force has been assured that replacement windows can be a stylistic and aesthetic match to the existing windows.
Will worship in the Sanctuary be disrupted?
The Arts Task Force has been assured that the removal and replacement process can be completed without impairing our use of the Sanctuary.  
Wouldn’t it be better to use these resources for projects that foster racial reconciliation and justice?
The Arts Task Force feels strongly that the two are not mutually exclusive, and has recommended additional actions to continue Covenant’s work promoting racial justice. Covenant has long linked building projects and mission. We expect our current and future leadership will maintain this tradition.
When will Session vote on the recommendation?
We anticipate Session will vote in calendar year 2022.
How can I share my input?
If you are interested in sharing your perspective with Session, we remind you of the invitation to send or hand-deliver letters addressed to Tommy Lawson, Clerk of Session, 1000 E. Morehead St., Charlotte, NC 28204. We respectfully request all letters are received by November 1 to give Session members adequate time to consider them thoroughly.