Warning to Ann Street readers: this will look suspiciously like next week's Chimes article. Spoiler alert!
On February 11, 2011, there was a small electrical fire in our church sanctuary. Eric discovered it early and called the fire department right away, and then he called me. I was in Raleigh with Ben on an early Valentine's Day date and errand-running spree, and was surprised, honestly, but how much grief I felt. Of course, at that time all I knew was that there had been a fire, and not the extent of it.
Since then, we've kept busy. We temporarily moved the offices to the fellowship hall for a week or so, we've worshiped in the fellowship hall for the last several weeks, and the sanctuary building has been filled with noise and people working. We've installed a new alarm system, made extensive repairs to the building's wiring, and had contractors in to restore the sanctuary's floor and walls. A professional fire-damage cleaning company has been in a couple of times to do their part, the carpet has been replaced in the sanctuary, and our trustee chair has spent more time in the office than I have, probably, overseeing the work (thanks, George!).
Finally, this week, after six weeks of work, we were able to call in the Altar Guild and begin to put the sanctuary back together. On Wednesday afternoon, when the pew cushions were back in place and the curtain around the choir loft had been replaced, the altar was properly "dressed" for communion this week, and all the hymnals, Bibles, pencils, and envelopes had been returned to their places in the pew racks, I went in for just a moment in the quiet, and was moved to tears, just a little.
I had not realized how much grief I had over the fire, compounded by the stress of the last several weeks. And I had not realized how much it hurt my feelings to have had the sanctuary "naked" during the repairs. The cushions, carpet, and basically paper or fabric came out of the sanctuary for repair or replacement within the first few days. The altar cross and candlesticks were cleaned and stored in the Heritage Room, and despite the beautiful windows, which were thankfully undamaged, the sanctuary looked a bit desolate. I thought I'd been able to be very practical about all this, until I saw it all "dressed up" for worship again.
I'm really looking forward to this Sunday's worship. By Thursday afternoon, we'd passed all the necessary inspections and were permitted to occupy the building again, and within 30 minutes had our first visitors. Sunday, we will celebrate our first worship services back in the sanctuary, and I expect it will be a true celebration, and a reminder to us that while Lent is often a season of sacrifice and reflection, Sunday is always a little Easter celebration. This weekend we will celebrate our own rebirth!
And if I cry a little again, so be it. They are tears of joy.