June 14, 2010

Along These Old Halls

It's brick exterior is simple but proud and stands in memorial to a million memories that are dear to me and have helped shape me into the woman I am today.  I have seen it through evolutions of ministry and evolutions of structure.  People have come and gone but it has remained strong in both it's foundation and it's doctrine.

We came in 1983.  Everything was orange.  Carpet.  Curtains.  Everything.  Pastor and elders sat across the stage, gazing out at us like some monarchical superiors.  We sang only from the hymnal and only with the accompaniment of Alice, the organ lady.  Pastor Bill boomed from the heavy oak pulpit.  Pastor Chris was young and quiet and my first crush and I would fight with Megan Penfold over who got to hold his hand when they called the children to the stage for prayer.  The nursery had a wall of cages that they called cribs.  The library had orange metal shelves and a fireplace.  The wheelchair ramp was a jungle gym.  The Sunday School classrooms smelled like mould.  Bible stories were told using felt boards and little people cut-outs.  The front stoop was a perfect cement stage for twirling favorite dresses.  Linus Wark always had a story about talking birds and George Simpson always had gum.

So much has changed.  Green has replaced orange.  (If they'd only done that sooner I would have had my wedding there instead of the big Lutheran down the street.)  The oak pulpit was retired to storage and replaced by plexiglas.  Matt Gingrich brought drums on the stage in 1995 and some people are still complaining.  The hymnals haven't been cracked open in ages and serve only as hard surfaces on which children doodle upon offering envelopes.  Walls have been removed to expand the basement space for youth ministry; my purple graffiti name on the slated ceiling that once stood above the youth kitchen standing as one of the only remaining testaments to how it used to be.  The original chapel which was beautiful and sacred (though hardly used) was destroyed to make room for the new children's nursery space.  Gymnasium built.  Parking lot expanded.

So little remains.  But so much change has bred amazing things.

Last week I walked along the basement corridor, letting my finger trace the groove in the yellow cinderblock wall just as I did when I was a child.  It still smells of mould.  Each classroom door holds a different memory.  Being awarded a Bible for perfect attendance during first grade.  Singing Jonah and the Whale and I've Got The Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down In My Heart and Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.  Practicing for my year on the Bible Quiz team.  Hide and Seek beneath low tables.  Waiting in full costume for the cue to make my way upstairs for the annual children's Christmas play.  Gold stars when I knew the answer.  All these memories seem wrapped in the smell.

The carpet is being replaced this summer and I felt like somehow it was the final nail in the coffin of my youth.  Stupid, I know, but I was feeling a bit sentimental and old.

But then, on Sunday, I watched my daughter on that old cement stoop spinning in her pretty blue dress just like I used to do and suddenly I felt okay about the changes.  Good riddance mould and mildew and ugly old carpet.  Let's make some new memories!

And some things never change.  George Simpson still always has gum.
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