Death to Pragmatism & Efficiency Part Deux
|My church was known for its extravagance -- emphasis on was. Being located in Watertown, NY, about 8 miles from Lake Ontario and 25 minutes to the St. Lawrence River, Trinity Church formerly had its own yacht club on the lake. That's right, its own yacht club.|
The current parish house was built in 1912 as a gift from Emma Flower Taylor, in memory of her father, Roswell Flower, and uncle, Anson Flower. The structure she had built replaced a parish house that was only 24 years old! The elder Flowers had paid for the church to be built earlier. Here is a quote from the history on the Trinity web site about the current parish house:
"The present parish house, designed by Philadelphia, PA architects Watson and Huckel, served as a social and recreational center for the entire community, and was built with an auditorium, gymnasium, bowling alleys, and swimming pool."The Parish House also had apartments for curates (priests in training) and what is currently my office was formerly the billiards room. The bowling alleys are gone, the swimming pool has a deck over it and is the AA room, the gymnasium is still used, and the auditorium has become the Great Hall.
This whole story reminds me of articles that St. Brad of Abet has posted about "third spaces." People have places where they work and live, but what is currently missing in our culture is a "third space" or location where community & friendships are built and lived out. Trinity would certainly have been that at one point.
Ten years after the parish house was rebuilt, the church sanctuary was redone. Again from the web site:
"In the sanctuary in 1922, the entire chancel area was rebuilt to include the present marble altar, reredos, and altar and chancel rails. Marble tiles were later laid in the aisles, and other redecorations and renovations were carried out."During the time frame all this happened, rinky dink little Watertown had more millionaires per capita than any other city in America. It was these wealthy Episcopalians that spent all this money. Oh yeah, and they had another church built so their servants would have a place to go to church. Wasn't that nice? Certainly one wouldn't want their servants to go to church with one's self.
For a long time I sneered at them, ranting about how that money could have been better spent. Now certainly the church didn't have a big impact for the Gospel. It was more a social club. But I think I've changed my mind on the extravagance of it all.
What if churches became known as wealthy and extraordinarily generous? What if one of the distinguishing characteristics of God's people was that they always appeared blessed? They had enough for themselves but even more so, they appeared almost insane in the amount that they gave away? What if they appeared so confident in God's provision for them?
I'm just thinking out loud here, which is always dangerous. I could change my mind later this afternoon. But I wonder what kind of witness that would be, if God's people appeared so blessed, wouldn't that be an attractive witness for the Gospel?
As it is now, God's people never appear to have enough. They are always having fund drives, auctions, rummage sales, pledges, car washes, solicitation letters and the like, to get the money for something God has called them to do. I see a lot of mediocrity, cost cutting measures and worry about where the money will come from. Is that really God "just building our faith" or is it something else? Why does it appear that God is never extravagant and His people never really appear blessed to the point of overflowing abundance?