“We are but a treasure in earthen vessels.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7
Sandra Keene told me this story while I was teaching a class titled “Bricks and Mortals” at the Andover Newtown Seminary, sponsored by the former Bangor Theological Seminary. We were looking for positive ways forward as buildings catch up with declining congregations and declining congregations catch up with their buildings.
She told about the treasure in earthen vessels.
“Imagine your longtime friend is coming to visit your home for the first time. In preparation, you pick up and organize a bit. As you clean the bathroom, you realize that the towels are old, dingy, and have lost their softness. This just won’t do. But…wait…an idea!! New towels are purchased and now all is ready. It’s a small gesture but one that is rooted in appreciation and love…. Our narthex – that long and narrow hall at the front of the church was dull, cold, and uninspiring. It almost seemed as though it was meant only for catching the dirt off shoes as people entered . . . .
Team one gathered. Within two weeks, the space was updated. Fully cleaned, freshly painted, and dressed with caring touches, the space was transformed. With clear function in mind, a few furniture pieces were added along with new interior steps and handrails. A dedicated wall of framed photos showcased the history of the church. The addition of religious symbolism came in a small water fountain, a living plant, and the project was relatively low cost ($1000 plus donated items and labor). By fall, this space will receive the gift of heat from a longtime church family.” More information can be found at www.grovelanducc.org.
Freshen us, O God, please freshen us. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.