On January 19, 2007, the beloved community of First Baptist Church on Fifth gathered in the Sanctuary for a prayer vigil. The Sanctuary was being renovated, as some of you remember. The pews had come out, the carpet had been ripped up, and the space bore signs of care and restoration. But that night, more marks would fill the space, marks made from Sharpies in your hands, scrawling names and prayers and hopes for a vibrant future on the bare floor. Scott Hudgins’ beautiful prayer that day said this: “May this sanctuary always be large enough to hold all who seek its solace — those who are rich and those who are poor, those who are family and those who are strangers, those who are happy and those who are sad. May this sanctuary always be wide enough to provide mercy for all of God’s creation — the hurting, the outcast, the despised, the oppressed — the very ones for whom Jesus came. May this sanctuary always be deep enough to hold out the depths of god’s grace — to those who know loss, pain, and suffering like our Savior did. And may this sanctuary always reflect the love experienced here, through generations of faithful followers who lived in the light of God’s love.”
I found these beautiful words when looking back at the worship folder for the Sunday you celebrated the ‘new shine’ on the sanctuary as the “Heritage and Hope” renovation came to a close. The gathered community prayed them together that day, and as I read it, I smiled in warm recognition.
For you see, about six weeks ago, I and others ascended the tower scaffolding for the final time. The work of restoration was nearly complete, and a week later, the scaffolding was set to come down. When we arrived some twenty stories high, adjacent with the steeple tower dome, our project superintendent Steve Hicks told us a story. It seems that when the workers from Baker Roofing removed the old copper from the tower dome, they found that the roofers who put it on some 60 years ago had signed their names underneath: Fred, George, Henry, Charles, John. Our crew got a kick out of that and decided to follow suit, leaving their mark on their excellent craftsmanship to be discovered in another 60 years or so: Jorge, Juan, Jesús, Luis, José. With delight over such a story, we then had to follow suit:: Gary, Joe, Emily, Amy. Remembering those prayers down below, hidden from view but not from vision, I added a final mark of prayer: “May this be A Boundless Home for generations to come! To God be the glory!”
Names and marks, persistent hopes and longing prayers, on the tower and the ground, community inside and outside, a call for space to reflect the vast reach and intimate refuge of God — all uniting in one voice of gratitude to the God whose steadfast love endures forever! This spirit resounding through the generations ‘reflecting the love we’ve experienced here’ is what we’ll mark this Sunday in its end and beginning as Phase One draws to a close. I do hope to see you and yours at the church house — first for a pot-luck breakfast at 9:00am, followed by space dedications and worship at 10:30am — all giving thanks to God who has marked us first and forever with Love.
Together in God’s work of Love,
Emily Hull McGee