May our Building be renewed for Holy Space and Mission!

This is a sermon I did not get to preach. You may recall I was working my way through a series on the Five Prayers of Calvary when I was sidetracked for surgery and out for a Sunday. But this prayer is too important to drop. So here’s a shortened version.

The People of God express their faith journey through their dwellings. As Churchill famously said, we shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us. For the people of God it may be the Tabernacle that teaches reverence for God even while on a journey through the wilderness. It may be the Temple that teaches them the value of boundaries and what it means to worship God “in the beauty of holiness.” It may be the synagogue where the furniture focuses the worshipper to the front where the scrolls of God’s word wait to be read and applied. It might be the house church of the New Testament where forty or so people gather to worship Lord Jesus in hymns and songs and share the fellowship meal.

Or it may be this building of red brick and mortar located at 700 Market Street, Lemoyne, adorned in stained glass windows and crowned with a ten foot red cross. In this building we worship God and pass the faith to the next generation. Here we order the life of our congregation and minister to the urgent needs of others.

In my time at Calvary, three years this December, I would describe our relation to the building as “reactive.” The building holds the script; we’ve tried to play our parts. First there was a long list of issues the Insurance company identified as potentially hazardous. Some of them such as the highway dividers for the parking lot next door took a couple of thousand dollars. Others like the exhaust system for the oven in the kitchen took ten times that. Then there was those well used items that simply gave out: repairs here, replacements there, some a few hundred dollars, one, the AC unit, several thousand.

If our prayer had been, “May our building be maintained for holy space and mission,” our prayer would have been answered. We have reacted well. But our prayer is not for maintenance; it is for improvement. Through the last few months we have identified the area just to the left of sanctuary, the Adult Sunday School Room, as our main receiving area for visitors to the worship service and many of our ministries. And we are agreed that in many ways this area is “lost in the sixties,” or maybe even the fifties. It has some glaring defects such as inadequate handicap accessible restrooms. And it has some cosmetic defects such as dim lighting and dated ceiling, flooring and windows.

I am asking if we have turned a corner on a new season in our congregational story. I am asking if instead of waiting for the next shoe to drop, or at least before the next shoe drops, could we start to do some serious improvement on our building, especially in the area of the public interface, the place where our guests form their first impressions of the building and of the congregation that dwells here?

The Council has agreed and the Trustees have engaged an engineer to do a study of our former Adult Sunday School area and to come back to us with some images, concepts, plans, and budget projections that we could use should we decide that we wanted to get serious about addressing the untapped hospitality potential of this building. We will be sharing some of that information in the weeks ahead.

For now I invite you to join me in the question. Have we turned the corner on a new season in the congregational story where we not only maintain but also improve our building for holy space and mission? May it be so!

Pastor Lew