The roof fell in on the church I started attending
The collapse occurred after I’d been coming only a couple of weeks. While I have not always been a regular churchgoer, I thought this was kind of an over-the-top response to my unexpected appearance in church.
The collapse was pretty serious, as it turned out. Several roof joists snapped and the rest were badly compromised and we were not permitted to return to the sanctuary. So, services had to be held in the basement (which was not directly underneath). The roof came down in January—of last year—we are still in the basement.
“What’s our word for the year?” one of the church’s two pastors would ask at the start of every service.
“Flexibility!” the congregation would reply, in unison.
It might have been my imagination but I sensed that a fair portion of the parishioners felt that yoga class would be a better place to practice this than church.
The first few weeks were a bit disorienting. The basement is long and narrow so it was hard to know how to set up the folding chairs. One arrangement was tried the first week but when we arrived the second week, the chairs were in an entirely new set-up. Older parishioners would enter the room and stand for several long moments, surveying the landscape, to get their bearings.
When the formation of the building committee was announced, there were plenty of eager volunteers. The thing about church committees is that they almost always involve: 1) cooking something, 2) visiting very sick people or, 3) asking people for money.
No one actually likes going to the hospital or asking for money and going to battle with an insurance company beats making a tuna noodle casserole any day of the week. But, as the months went by, I began to worry that this committee was, perhaps, having just a little too much fun. They spent months going back and forth with the insurance adjustors and the committee chairman became a minor celebrity. He’d announce who’d won the latest round in church and folks would cheer as if it were some new kind of competitive sport.
Apparently, we are now getting close.
The project grew, as projects like this almost always do. The pews were in need of refinishing and the radiators needed an upgrade and the lighting was pretty badly damaged when the roof dropped down like the underside of a boat.
“I think we’ll be in for Easter!” the chairman announced. That will be sixteen months after the collapse, and far longer, I am sure, than anyone imagined it would be.
On the way out last Sunday, I looked at the pews, lined up in the narthex with a new coat of stain and brand-new cushions on them. It’s going to be nice, no question.
But I wondered if I would be the only one to feel a little nostalgic for our year of “flexibility.” I wondered if joining this new church would have been as rich an experience if I’d been comfortably sitting in a pew the whole time.
Every week, we’ve had to move and adapt to change. Every week, the church has faced the challenge of how it can fit everyone in and still accomplish its many other functions the other six days of the week. Every week the congregation has had to work together in ways they never have before.
While I’m certainly not wishing for the roof to fall in on anyone, I’m not sure it’s been such a bad thing.
Till next time,
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