The parishioners of Saint John the Baptist Church in Lansford have undertaken several projects designed to make the church more accessible to those with disabilities while maintaining the historic integrity of the church building, which has stood on East Bertsch Street since 1911.
This was a challenging task to accomplish, and required many months of planning, including many meetings with contractors and structural engineers. The improvements included the complete replacement of the sidewalks in front of the church building to allow for wheelchair access to the church hall. However, the most significant improvement was the installation of a ramp to allow handicapped access to the nave of the church.
These improvements were important because of the increasing age of many church members. The new ramp will allow church members, who found it increasingly more difficult to climb the front steps, to enter the church with ease.
In addition to the new access ramp and sidewalks, the members of St. John's parish have made great strides toward the incorporation of green technology in the operation of the church building that will result in significant energy conservation. The church has begun upgrading all of the lighting in the interior, from halogen to energy efficient LED bulbs. This project is being undertaken at a considerable expense to the parish, but will save expenses and energy in the long run. This is just one of many projects that have taken place under the leadership of St. John's pastor, Fr. Vasyl Chepelskyy.
This summer, the parish also installed "mini-split" air conditioning units in the church. For many years, the church sanctuary was plagued by the summer heat and humidity. In addition to the uncomfortable heat that the parishioners had to endure, the constant humidity over time wrought havoc by damaging the priceless iconography and plaster walls of the church. The units are Energy Star rated, and also will save energy in the winter months since they are also set up to work in reverse as heat pumps. The upgrade will ensure increased savings while at the same time decreasing the parish's reliance on fossil fuels to heat the church.
""The parishioners are very excited to have these new comfort systems installed. The parish will not only be able to decrease operating expenses but we will also decrease our carbon footprint. This is a morally responsible way for us to participate in the protection of our environment," Fr. Chepelskyy said.
The installation of the units was accomplished at a total cost of $12,000, half of which was covered by the generosity of two parishioners.
For more information on these projects and other activities currently taking place at St. John's Church, visit the parish Facebook page at SaintJohntheBaptistByzantineCatholicChurchLansford.