1. It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about anything church-related on here–so long that I don’t really even expect you to know what I’m talking about when I say “anything church-related”! You can catch up on my initial bemoaning here, but the short of it is this: my church is essentially out of money (for reasons I initially planned on detailing, until that got to be nearly 1000 words and I wasn’t even halfway done with it–though if you want to know the nitty gritty, I’d be happy to write a novella on it!–but basically boil down to deferred maintenance, misplaced loyalty and not enough membership). When your church, like anything, really, runs out of money, you have two options: sell your assets in an effort to get back on your feet, or close up shop.
My church opted to go with the first option and is selling off half our property as a result. While selling off half our property is better than selling off all our property, I suppose, it’s only slightly better. The half we’re selling contains all of the non-“church” space (offices, the kitchen, etc.), and because we’re not willing to give up having that kind of space entirely, it means we have to renovate–a euphemism if ever there were one–the sanctuary to accommodate the functional space we’re losing. When all of this was initially discussed a year and a half ago, it was made quite clear that “renovation” would really mean gutting the entire church, and at that point, well, what even is the point? If you’re just going to preserve the exterior of the building and destroy the interior, as far as I’m concerned, you may as well just sell the whole property.
When this discussion started in April 2016, I made it quite clear that the day the interior of the church stopped looking exactly (or, you know, more or less exactly) as it did on that exact Sunday was the day I left. Maybe I’m being shallow, but a major part of what drew me to my church initially was its interior. It’s a space that feels church-y to me, and for me, it’s important to be in a space that feels church-y if I expect to have a church-y experience.
Last Thursday we learned that the sale of half of the property was in the process of moving forward, and if all goes as expected, the last service we’ll hold in the church as it looks right now will be Easter 2018. It’s a pretty upsetting prospect, to say the least, though I thought Easter 2016 would be the last Easter in church, and then I thought Easter 2017 would be the last Easter in church, so I guess at least I got two more Easters than I originally anticipated.
Anyway, I figured that meant Easter 2018 would be my expiration date with my current church. Then this past Sunday as I was leading, one of the people in charge of things asked if I’d have interest in being on the “temporary space committee,” who will be responsible for finding a place for the congregants to worship while the church is under construction. My initial reaction was a HARD PASS, until she continued on and let me know that the temporary space committee will also be the future space committee, and will be the ones to have a say in what the renovated sanctuary looks like.
A chance to bully architects into meeting my demands AND fight the good fight for historic preservation?! Sign me up!
Nothing is official yet by any means, but as the lady who approached me in the first place said, even if nothing works out the way I want it to, at least I had a say in it. In the mean time, if you need me, I’ll be brushing up on my persuasive speaking techniques and memorizing the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation as if they were the 10 Commandments themselves.
2. One of the first things I saw online after getting the email from church announcing the sale stuff was this article from DNAInfo about how a bunch more vacant buildings have been torn down in the city this year compared to last year, and…sigh. I have so many feelings about tearing down vacant buildings. I understand the drive to keep away the appearance of blight in a neighborhood. I understand the high risk that vacant buildings pose from a safety perspective. But it still bothers me. It bothers me to think about the people who invested in building these places in the first place. It bothers me to think about the amount of work that went into the construction of these places, particularly since so most of them are generally pushing, if not already over, 100 years old, and obviously the technology that improves efficiency in construction didn’t exist at the time. It bothers me to think about the people who lived there, who raised families there, who grew up there, who have history there. It bothers me that the circumstances that created an environment for these homes to fall into vacancy or disrepair–the redlining, the disinvestment in the neighborhood–were allowed to exist in the first place. It feels enormously disrespectful to all the people whose lives intersected with those homes to just tear them down as if they’re just a problem to be “dealt with,” and it feels enormously misguided to think that eliminating empty structures and turning them into empty lots instead will somehow solve the systemic social injustices that plague those neighborhoods–as if gutting a neighborhood will magically eliminate poverty and all its associates.
I don’t know. Maybe I just care about buildings too much. But I do think buildings are important, and I think old buildings are especially important because they serve as a testament to the fact that people were here before you. Forgetting that is rude at best, dangerous at worst. But goodness knows trying to convince people of that when there is money to be made is an uphill battle.
3. In my-other-ridiculous-passion news, I saw a red-bellied woodpecker in CHICAGO on Saturday. Talk about a bird sighting!
(Not this specific red-bellied woodpecker–or at least, I assume it wasn’t the exact same bird–but you get the idea.)
I could NOT believe it! I was out for a run on the Lakefront Trail and saw one of these regal creatures on a retaining wall along Lake Shore Drive. Considering that I’ve only ever seen two or three woodpeckers of any variety, period, in Chicago (including the one who fate briefly entrusted to my care), and I’ve only ever seen them in the depths of neighborhoods, seeing one along the lake–along the Drive itself, no less!–was quite the occasion.
Now, if only I could see a bluebird inside city limits…