Last week school started for our kids. This year we are doing a new carpool, in which our secondary students are both dropped off at Lantrip Elementary. Due to a regularly tardy bus, I have had lots of time at waiting on Eastwood St., right next to Church of the Redeemer.
The first day in particular, the bus was three hours late. So I went up to the front of the church and sat, as I have done so many times in my life, on one of the front platforms, next to the front steps. As I sat there reading, I became awash with a sense of the holy place that it is.
I was reading a book for a spiritual direction course I am taking, so it was a “holy” book. But honestly, it seemed overshadowed by the mere physical place where I sat. It was as though all of the worship, liturgy, fellowship, teaching, prayer, prophecies, and dances that have taken place in that sanctuary and even on the front lawn and the street were emanating into my spirit.
No doubt, after worshipping and living in the precious Redeemer community for 26 years, I do feel connected to the place, as do so many. I was eleven when we first came to Redeemer. From the start, I felt we had come to a type of paradise. I grew up there, over and again. But it did not even seem like nostalgia, since I was reading my material and making notes. My attention was elsewhere. The very stones seemed to be emanating the joy that we have shared, calling to me to take delight in being there.
This morning as I awoke, running through my mind was the concept of consecration or more accurately, de-consecration.
I went to the last service at Redeemer in February of 2011, wherein the building was officially de-consecrated. The liturgy for this aspect of the service was new to me. This morning, thoughts came to me regarding this practice of delineating the sacred from the non-sacred in this way.
Each life being lived out is sacred to God. Whether the brain, soul and spirit of that person knows and acknowledges their own sacredness. The very breath we breathe is sacred. It originates from God. Each human being is a potential temple of the Holy Spirit. However, many never fully realize this potential.
A stone building has a different kind of sacredness. Its mass absorbs the sounds produced by the inhabitants. Imagine the very plaster and stones, the pews and the other furniture within the Church of the Redeemer. What glorious sounds have resonated into the physical mass of stone and mortar. It is becoming known that sounds made on the earth continue on. The physical vibration made continues into solid mass and beyond to outer space and never stops vibrating.
I think of the times I have screamed out of anger, hurt or frustration. How I would love to take those words and sounds back, out of the universe. Imagine all those suffering, how their cries echo out into the universe. “God heard their cries.” This was a common statement in the Old Testament. He still hears our cries. He hears our praise, worship, adoration and every word we say.
The thought of the vibration of my words continuing forever is a very humbling thought. What have I said? What words have I withheld that needed saying? A new sense of responsibility ensues. This is good.
But back to those stones, mortar, wood and plaster that were deconsecrated in February of 2011. They are holy. They are sacred. Even if the bricks are torn apart and ground down to dust. The dust will continue to carry the vibrations of the sounds heard in the sacred sanctuary. The kitchen still resonates with the service and loving labor of meals prepared for masses and dishwashers (the human variety) cleaning up from the same feasts.
The nursery with baby coos, laughter and crying. B-13 resonates with music recordings made, youth group teachings, AA meetings, junior high dances, ballet classes, Sunday Schools and more. B-14 and Rm 108 held countless bridal and baby showers, classes, prayer meetings, ladies bible studies, more youth group meetings. The parish hall resounds with joyful reunions of old friends, celebrations of weddings, birthdays, talent shows, Seder suppers, youth group games, waltzes, Jewish folk dances, square dances, and lots of basketball. Each area has so many stories to tell. I recall vegetable runs where bushels of fresh veggies filled the space. I remember illegal residents waiting in line to receive help in attaining amnesty to the U.S.
So the buildings at Redeemer, even if they are ground to dust, will continue holding the sacred in its fiber. It cannot be removed.
So rather than de-consecrating the building, it seems more in order to consecrate it to continue on in life. It will either be restored as a viable building and continue to emanate with the sacred life that was invested into the very stones over much time or it will be destroyed, returned to dust, consecrated dust that would return to the Earth and become new material for good use.
Liturgy spoken at Redeemer wafts up into my mind:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.
I hear Jim Kearney’s voice saying the benediction, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” I hear our resounding response, “Thanks be to God, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!” There were times that the sermon and service had been so long that I was very full of joy to say those words with true gusto. But that was not all behind the gusto. We felt cleansed, filled with His spirit, his goodness, his praise and glory through the worship, communion, and the beauty of our community entering into his gates, dwelling through the Spirit in his holy of holies. We were being commissioned to take those things with us out into to the world.
Perhaps the building of the church of the redeemer will be “rescued” from destruction. If so, I would expect it to continue to be a jewel in Eastwood. Perhaps it would go in peace from being a “church” to love and serve the Lord as a “secular” community center. Regardless of its state, its use or abuse, the DNA of Redeemer remains. It is a remainder (as are we the living stones) of the many times and ways that God met man and woman on the Earth, dwelt with them, communed with them and united them into one body. (No matter how much they argued and disagreed.)