What can one say in just a few words? It was quite plain, actually. A lot like thousands of other churches. No fancy stained-glass windows. Painted tin ceiling, beautifully cut door and window frames, spotless white walls. Uncomfortably hard wooden pews, polished to a shine. A choir loft that was perpetually too small. A thick velvet curtain behind the pulpit that hid the baptismal font from view. This was a Baptist church, where the place of baptism was a holy place and where getting baptized meant getting wet all over.
But it’s not the building that tells the tale — it’s the people who worshiped there. People who took their faith and their commitment to family and community very seriously. People who loved good music and good preaching and loved to share them both with anyone who would listen. People who were baptized, married, and buried there. People who, eventually, could no longer afford to keep up their building. Probably one more casualty of the closed steel mills. Just one day the people closed the doors and never came back.
The place served as an office building for a few years after that, but it never really looked alive again.
It’s a salutary reminder that nothing built with human hands lasts forever.
True, the real church is the people not the building. True, those who worshiped there, and their families and friends, went on to worship in other places. Still I think there’s something in all of us that wishes these monuments to faith could stand eternally, as faith does. And for those of us who believe, it’s troubling to see a neighbor’s spiritual home being torn down. One less place of fellowship. One less pair of doors open to the hurting and the troubled. One more place where the laughter of children will never again be heard.
Farewell old friend.