Scott and I enjoyed running around on our Eraser Scavenger Hunt today. We decided to try one of our favorite thrift stores downtown but it was the surprise we experienced en route that was our most bittersweet find.
Driving down 23rd street, we noticed a church over to our right. Under my breath I said, “I would love to take pictures of that…” and before I knew it, Scott was finding a parking spot nearby.
While the scene was intriguing, it was simultaneously difficult to watch.
How many of you grew up going to church? Easter dresses and running through the church halls with friends while your parents talked with other grown-ups after the service. Many of the special ceremonies in my life, were held within the confines of the church walls. Buildings that housed significant decisions and life-changing choices.
I do not think I’ve ever witnessed, however, the demolition of a church. Watching the once-glorious walls of an inner-city Catholic church on Benton Blvd being dismantled was moving; so many thoughts and scenarios going through my mind as my eye saw so many pictures to try to capture.
(how familiar do those pews look, people of St. Paul’s…College Church?)
My heart was getting heavier and heavier as I walked the perimeter of the building. Workmen all around were dismantling the roof. The stone on the sides of the building were being torn off and then wrapped on palettes. Everywhere I looked, crosses were holding steady while complete chaos encroached on their stability.
How many stories did this building hold? Happy times. Harmonic choirs. Teenagers flirting during the sermon. Regal pastoral attire.
How many people were hurt by this church? How many are happy to see it being destroyed? I would like to believe that the joyous times outweighed the trying ones. But I’m sure the difficulties existed. As with any church, it is made up of fallible humans.
I believe that the message of the church surpasses its walls. God is mightier than stone or demolition. I know this to be true.
But the symbolism of this church was strong; its demise, disheartening. It was sad to see any corner of any city, lose the friendship of a beautiful church building.
I got as close as I dared. After this pouf of dust trickled down around me, I decided I had outlived my intrusion and backed away…
Scott and I talked to a few of the guys that were working there. “This is my first day. They put out the word that they needed roofers, but this is a big job! We’ve just taken off three layers of shingles and are now pulling up copper nails.”
Again, my soul hurt.
The guy running the crane outside turned off his engine and looked at me. Since everyone said that was the guy in charge, I wasn’t sure if he’d give me tough time about being in a “hard hat area”. I wondered if they thought I was writing an expose on their “heretical assault on the Lord’s house.”
I decided to smile and comment on the hugeness of his task. Trying to side with him on this large, thankless job, etc.
I was so glad I did.
I asked what was going to happen to the architectural building elements….the crosses…
He told me the church was re-building. In North Kansas City. And while this was discouraging (…another urban city church relocating to a safer neighborhood in the burbs…), I was thrilled that he said they were carefully dismantling the stone to be used on the new church. Some of the crosses would go to the new church, others were being donated to area churches. The palettes of stone were being transported to the new location.
In my heart I knew the stories of this church would go with them. Would live on in the new facility.
I introduced myself and told him I was with the U.S. Green Building Council. He knew it immediately and went into further detail about their reclaiming process and how they were transporting the materials.
Old materials; new life.
I felt so much better.
He specifically pointed out the window frame in the front of the church…
It was going to the church that would be called The Twelve Apostles Catholic Church.
I walked away feeling that new life was being given these building materials that have housed generations of events and salvation.
Walking back to our car, I reached inside one of the fence gaps and grabbed a small piece of the church’s stone that had rolled to a stop on the ground and thought to myself, salvation seemed to be the most overwhelming story of all.