By Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch
The education building is humming with activities these days. Workers are in and out, as are day school staff and volunteers. All the casement windows have been installed and work on the leaded windows will begin soon. Carpet is ripped out ready to be replaced and the vandalized classrooms and hallways will soon be re-painted.
Now that the kitchen and Parish Hall are completed, Morning Prayers has returned to the chapel, followed by breakfast in the Parish Hall. The Budget & Finance committee met in the Parish Hall, as was their habit, for the first time since the vandalism. Room in the Inn, our ministry to the homeless, is meeting in the Parish Hall as well. All winter term it met in the Sanctuary Building. Now it’s returned home.
When we return to full use of the building in about a month and half, you’ll see a lot of changes. Upstairs, the Christian Education and Music ministries of the church have been reorganized. There will be two quite noticea-ble changes. The present library will now be our Archive Room, with our historical materials easily available to church members. As you recall, it used to be in the basement of the Sanctuary Building.
The other change is that the choir is moving from the balcony in the Parish Hall to the room we have used in the past for Godly Play. The new space is being called the Choir Rehearsal Room, or “CPR,” as some joke. The balcony will now be used for storage for CE and the day school, and a system of shelves will be placed there so that the storage can’t be seen from floor level.
You may not be aware of it, but there are some changes in the Sanctuary Building as well. The former Archive Room has been modified into a functional classroom with a large closet for storage. Likewise another room has been built out as a classroom, also with a storage closet. Eduardo Calderon, who has shepherded the post-vandalism renovation, has been very intentional in thinking about how to redistribute and create the best bal-ance between classroom/office space and storage space. He and our sexton, Eddie Shaw, have worked hard not only to create new space for both but also to eliminate piled-up junk from the past decades.
You’ll get to see all this and more as part of our fantastic “Topping Off” celebration on August 27th, advertised elsewhere in this newsletter. It’s a joyous celebration of our official “reopening” and tours of the improved building will be available.
God has truly, truly blessed St. Stephen in the months since the vandalism. There’s been such an outpouring of love from the community. We’ve seen an uptick in visitors and new members. Through Eduardo’s leadership, we’ve not only made repairs, we have actually used this opportunity to improve our facilities in new and ex-citing ways. In addition, there’s been a feeling of solidarity, of fellowship, of shared purpose, that has made this an exciting and spiritually uplifting time. The Apostle Paul observed that “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). It’s a bit of stretch to call the vandalism “suffering,” but it has certainly been a difficulty, and many churches have stum-bled under less challenging stressors. But by God’s grace, this situation has seemed to strengthen our character and shore up our hope. In fact, the grit and determination of this congregation to make something positive out of this difficulty has been a witness to the world of the hope that we have in Christ Jesus. Thanks be to God for the strength and promise we have received!