One of our parishioners posted this capture on facebook with a note reminding us this would be the last Christmas in the old church. It’s a long story connected with the parish founding. As was told to me, the founding pastor was instructed to build a school first, including a gymnasium. It was later decided that the school wasn’t needed right away, and that the largest room in the complex could be converted from indoor athletics for worship.
More than twenty years later, the first windows were cut into the upper walls. Three groups of three. You might also note patterns of three in that dark-stained wood behind our younger deacon and retired pastor. The windows will remain, but the dark wood will all be gone by mid-2020, if all goes according to plan.
This will be my fourth church renovation. The first was an update of a 1945 building that took seven months. We worshiped in the city’s high school gymnasium–and it was fairly bright. The second was minor–it involved about a month in the parish school auditorium to re-do the sanctuary area. The third was the clean-up from an arson attack and took seven months in public facilities and other churches.
The plan in the books is about a year in the parish social hall. We’ll begin a week or two after Triduum.
I find myself both bothered and amused at the criticism I used to see levelled at “non-traditional” churches, whatever that means. For many parishes–and even their clergy–buildings were imposed by diocesan fiat, or by financial necessity. If I were on staff or consulting with a spanking-new parish, I’d tell them to forget the school and rectory. Build the church first. It’s the most important task they’ll undertake in the early days.
I visited a parish once for a job interview. Sunday Mass was in the school auditorium. It had been so for almost thirty years. I recall the parish was in heavy debt for building its school and had never really mastered it. No church building was on the horizon. It was very sad.