Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Words and Names in a New Season: Part 2

It was just a few Sundays ago -- the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, February 5th -- that we read from the hopeful part of Isaiah's proclamation to the children who suffered exile away from the comforts and familiarity of their historic home.  That reading finished  with the powerful commendation,

"The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in." Isaiah 58:11-12

The very same commendation is ours in the smaller but equally meaningful of repairing our properties, our historic home.  The patio is a principle image for us but let’s not forget that the same encouragement that Isaiah spoke so many years ago identifies a continuing reality, not a truth bound up and done with in a single moment. 

We are always to be repairers and restorers!

Especially as we have adopted the use of these antique structures: buildings, chalices, hymns, or rituals, we will ALWAYS have the duty of repair and restoration.  We will always have the responsibility to care for places and things and even more so the people who come to join us in using them. 

Isaiah’s words also point us to a day of glory and celebration; more Easter than Lent.  He is hoping for these words to be an encouragement because the Hebrew people's return to their historic home is still to be accomplished. 

We can use that same understanding and always look forward to each of those responsibilities being met and accomplished.

In other words we are always repairers, always restorers, always hoping to celebrate.  Not just to celebrate the work done but to celebrate the calling to the work of returning, repairing and restoring.

Thanks be to God we have been called!  We can always look forward to celebrating with God.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Words and Names in a New Season

There is a practice in most lectionary/liturgical churches like the Episcopal Church to refrain from using "alleluias" during the season of Lent.  With so much of our devotional focus being drawn through penitence those familiar expressions of exuberance, joy and release are at best premature.
This matters in particular this year because we are soon to be clear of several encumbering concerns which when completed will properly deserve our own celebratory expressions:
  • The Patio* is quickly becoming the smooth safe connector from our parking lot to the Parish House ramp.
  • New "same surface" walkways will soon provide safe entry to the "Little House" from the garden patio and the parking lot.
  • Phase one of restoring the parking lot to a regular smooth pea gravel surface.
  • Repair of loose bricks and sealing of the flues in our parish house fireplaces
  • Re-upholstering of the couches and chairs and a fresh coat of paint on the trim in the Parish House parlor.
  • The last day of crew support services for the movie -- St. Agatha -- being filmed at one of the Newton houses down Academy St. As exciting as the hugely increased "energy level" is, it'll be nice to return to a more contemplative environment for Lent.  
The exact end date of each of these efforts is not known in every case but the completion of each as it impacts our weekday lives will soon deserve a finale and in some cases a grand one. 

I hereby ask God to absolve in advance any member of the parish who is heard in celebration or any less-than-Lenten attitude uttering any of the following words or phrases:
  • Alleluia!!
  • Thanks be to God! (with hands raised!)
  • Its about time!
  • Glad that's over!
  • Glory! (with or without an accompanying "alleluia")
  • Sweet Jesus!
  • Praise the Lord!
  • and (especially important to me) What was frDann thinking?

*It is important for us to sustain the memorialization that already graces the areas of what we have turned to calling "the Patio."  It was provided remembering Marie Green Meacham and Elizabeth Wingo Clarke.  

Notice that in both instances the area was understood to be a garden space, not just a patio.  This needs our continued attention.  I'm proposing two responses to this recognition.  First, that we strive to designate and name the area as a "patio garden."  Not only that, we need to include the names Meacham and Clarke in our titling, too.  
Our second response should be to carefully establish and maintain attractive plantings in the areas inside the walls that remain around the garden patio.  I expect some short conversations with interested parishioners to help us find the right people to get that to happen.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Restoration and Recovery: Part 3

Restoration is not easy. Besides the demand of adherence to historic standards and the extra pressure to employ for modern function things antique and often fragile it also asks everyone to adjust away from old habits and practices.  The paths we walk, the doors we enter, the seats we occupy feel like they are off limits until the dust settles again.  

When the restoration work is done some of our habits return and some never are practiced again. Recovery is the partner to restoration because it also names the new customs or habits that give us a sense of self and others as much like the best of the past once gave us.  I'm imagining new ways to use the patio, increased use of the “little house”, a parlor that is once again a showpiece (think wedding photos!).

These concepts of restoration and recovery apply to us as much as our buildings because we are embodied beings, we are incarnated.  We don't just float around like ghosts immune to gravity or solidity.  We are grounded and consequential, we have weight and presence, we leave tracks and markers.  

Because we are incarnated our recovery shows through our behaviors, our adaptations and our learning.  When the work is done on the patio and the connections to the “little house” the changes that will matter the most will be the ones that we find in our recoveries.  Restoration sets the stage and recovery sings the old songs in a new way.  

Because we are incarnated our recovery means we are not alone.  Every soul who occupies these spaces renewed through faithful restoration helps all others to find their ways in and through the same spaces.  As we see and hear about the joy or pleasures that others have experienced because the patio is easier to use, the parlor brightened, we are drawn to find our own experience after them and in some cases with them.  

Because we are incarnated our use participates in the reinterpretation of space.  What was seldom used can become special, sacred, religious.  I remember how dear Ginger would put her lawn chair in the space between the parish house and the church and just sit there.  Her spirit is still helping us to embody a new use of that space. 

Years ago when that recovered Episcopal cohort restored and reinterpreted an old Methodist worship space they embodied a spirit that still walks the grounds, sits in our pews, visits our parlor and gazes across our patios.  Our uses will likely differ to varying degrees from those first to call 338 Academy St. their parish home.  But we are just like them as we restore and reinterpret these same spaces 55+ years later.  Thanks be to God for their embodiment and continued presence.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Restoration and Recovery: Part 2

I said last week that our choosing to inhabit an antique/historic property is that we have the benefit of certain qualities that come with the "way they used to make things."  Things like solid doors, metal fixtures, big windows, high ceilings, etc.  Both the church and the parish house are sustaining gifts to us from the past largely by way of this characteristic.  

Not all that is from the past is a gift to us, some items are problems and others can even surprise us.  Work to rebuild the patio has begun and in removing the boxwoods Dick Cotrill found an old well.  
Plans are to document its placement and fill it so that we can safely cover it with the new surface of brick and cement.  

Currently the demolition of the patio will allow us to re-use almost all of the original bricks. Precision Masonry of Athens is contracted for this work and has proposed a design that will mimic the simple cross pattern that currently decorates the walls around the patio. Donations have been secured to cover the costs of this rebuild.  

It almost goes without saying that this is an excellent recovery beyond restoration.  The rebuilt patio will have a larger area and a smoother, safer surface, especially for those using the ramp to enter through the kitchen.  

There are also plans to improve access to the little house with paths that match the patio in combining brick and cement.  We'll have to say goodbye to the magnolia tree that "graced" the parking lot and patio.  It's roots have already cause some cracking in the patio wall and are intruding on the entrance to the little house from the parking lot.  

There are other gifts from the past that keep on giving.  The drapes that have hung in the parlor windows will be repurposed to cover the sofa that has been in the parish house hallway near the back door.  Fabric from the drapes will also be used to recover the two upholstered chairs in the parlor. Donated fabric will be used the re-upholster the sofa that is presently in the parlor.

It feels good to say that we have carefully and deliberately moved into a good version of restoration and recovery.  We have honored the past and will leave for those after us a property that can continue to support growth both in use and in spirit.