Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

New Basements, Old Ceilings

By Sarah Neumann

Bright fluorescent work lights illuminate the otherwise dim basement rooms, empty save for some old scrawling on the chalkboards of what were once classrooms. This part of the basement is in the midst of being renovated, with the help of a grant from Lowe’s, so that it can serve as the location of an arts training program that will be run by Saint Vincent de Paul. Upstairs, a tower of scaffolding leads to an area of crumbled molding in the sanctuary that is being repaired.

Church buildings often house so much more than just their worshipping congregations. There are rental tenants, half-completed projects, old books. Memories of Christmases and Easters, weddings, and funerals. Hopes, intentions, failures, and tears all make themselves a home in our church buildings and the things we put in them.

Holy Trinity is no exception. More and more of its long history as a congregation is revealed the more rooms and corners you find your way into (and there are many!): the photos of dozens of previous rectors that hang on the wall, the library of a beloved late congregant and priest, the laminated signs urging social distancing that were put up in the midst of the pandemic. An old bulletin board, a sign pointing towards the chapel where the congregation has been worshipping while the sanctuary molding is under construction. An old coffee cup, a vase of artificial flowers, a piano. Each of these objects, however small or large, holds a piece of the congregation’s past. The question is, which also hold part of the present, and most importantly, the future?

There is a lot of stuff here in this building. But there is also a lot of life: a Christian ballet company on the second floor, a varied music ministry, a devoted group of parishioners who love their church and want to see it thrive. Holy Trinity is a place that knows how to do. Perhaps what comes next, then, is learning how to be. How to be in a large building, how to be in a parish community, how to be Christians together in 2023. How to be a beacon of hopeful, thoughtful, joyful change and transformation.

Image | Patrick Schneider on Unsplash