The communion rails have been removed and are leaning against the wall beneath the organ chamber screens, which are covered in Visqueen. The organ console is armored in a plywood box, and the pews have been numbered and unbolted from the floor. The 1950s oak parquet in the chancel has come up, and a large hole has been cut into the subflooring to expose the structure for engineers to assess what loads it might bear. The renovation of Calvary’s nave and chancel is underway!
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Charles Shipp speak in parish forums or smaller planning meetings about key moments in the history of Calvary’s buildings. He’s told us about the flat ceiling of the original nave and moving the baptismal font and chipping off the original stucco exterior to expose the warm red bricks we know and love. The bride’s walk was a midcentury attempt to import a little English quaintness, he says, and the Great Hall was a fairly bland box before another generation added the wainscoted grandeur we’re saying our prayers in this summer.
I had heard these stories and many more, but as I looked down into that hole in the chancel floor and saw old joists resting on an older, long-buried floor that held up another generation’s altar, the slow but certain evolution of the building came more vividly alive to me. Some carpenter nailed together the floor system upon which, decades later, another carpenter built the chancel that became the well-worn path to communion we know and love. The evidence of those earlier renovations made clear that we’re not undoing or covering up their work as we are continuing it.
Heraclitus said one cannot step into the same river twice, but the Mississippi remains recognizably the Mississippi to us. The day it stops flowing and churning is the day it ceases to be a river. So it is with us with regard to our lives and even our buildings. Stability doesn’t mean staying put. Living stability is a kind of faithful flow, responding to the present with a subtle enough understanding of one’s history to adapt well.
At our staff meeting this week we noted that visitors are still showing up at Calvary, some of whom are now new members. Their presence is a reminder that Calvary is not on pause. We are alive and well, flowing along quite beautifully. I hope you’ll join us on Sunday and be intentional about welcoming someone you don’t recognize.
New people in church remind us that there is a palpable energy and recognizable personality to this Christian community, even as we worship in a different space. This bodes very well for the changes that are to come. Changes to come in the next few months, and years, and even centuries, we pray.