First, a disclaimer. This one is about church. Not theology, really, but literally about a building that's a church. Some on this site have stated their extreme distaste for the concept of religion, even going so far as to claim that any religious thoughts are, by definition, inimical to "proper thinking." Personally, I feel the phrase "proper thinking" is just another gas chamber phrase, with the same murderous self-assurance and sociopathic lack of empathy the one find in phrases like "holy crusade" or "collateral damage." However, that is just my opinion and I believe it's only fair to warn people who may feel strongly that touching any remnant of faith will, like touching pitch, stain them permanently. If you are such a person, do yourself a favor and skip over this entry.
Had drinks with the Reverend of my church. Long Tan on 5th. About 7:00ish. He prefers Jever's pilsner. I stuck with my regular Jack on the rocks.
Our church is slowly falling apart and he wants me on the building committee. He knows that, for reasons to long to enter into here, I'm completely in love with the old gray dame and, on several occasions, have offered to take on absurdly large tasks on my own, given the financial straights currently experienced by the church. After listening to me wax poetic about the church, and discuss how much I would love to help take care of her, he invited me out to discuss the actual condition of the old girl and see if, after learning just what I would be up against, I was still gung-ho.
The bad news was pretty dire. First, we've got a multi-million steeple re-straightening that needs to be done. And done soon. The steeple of the church, for several decades the tallest structure in Brooklyn and still, I believe, the tallest steeple in Brooklyn, is an odd structure in that it was build without any internal support structure. It is simply a series of cleverly interlocked stones, stretching several stories without a wood or metal internal skeleton. Why the builders did not build any internal supports is unclear. The current theory is that the timbers meant for the church steeple were stolen by members of the congregation on the short transit from the Gowanus Canal to the church. On learning that church members would rather use the wood to reinforce their homes instead of the church, the builders figured out a way to do without. This solution has worked for almost a century now, but existing condition reports suggest that the steeple is now showing water damage at several points. This damage is getting worse every year.
The second major issue was the stained-glass windows. The church has several stained-glass windows, a handful of which are actually products of the Tiffany workshop, built under the direct supervision of Tiffany himself. In the 1950s, General Electric launched a massive marketing campaign aimed at getting churches throughout America to protect their stained-glass windows with sheets of lexan. The idea was an easy sell – trap your windows between clear panes of custom-fitted lexan and small kids won't be able to throw rocks through them. Unfortunately, given the long term results of early lexan installations, it would have been less damaging in the long run to replace the relatively minor damage of thrown rocks. The first problem is that the earliest versions of lexan cloud up after a decade or so. The problem doesn't effect modern lexan, but older installations suffer. This wouldn't be such a problem – you could just remove the protective lexan sheets and replace them with new ones – if it wasn't for the second unfortunate thing about lexan. Stained-glass windows need to "breathe." When they get wet, the lead that holds the stained-glass fragments in place begins to slowly turn into something not unlike battery acid. The process is slowed considerably when the window can breathe and any moisture in the lead is allowed to dry out. Lexan, as many churches found out, traps in moisture. The protective measure actually speeds up the systematic destruction of the window. In many churches, the leading is completely rotted away and the only thing hold the window in place is lexan. We don't know just how bad off the windows in the church are. Without removing the lexan, you can't really tell, and removing the lexan carefully, so that it might not destroy the windows entirely in the event that the leading is gone, is in and of itself a major undertaking. Another million or so.
The third bit of big bad news had to do with budgets. In essence, we don't have one. There's petty cash, but nothing near the amount we'd need just to accomplish those two major tasks.
We discussed other, smaller and less critical issues. Right now the church it too dark. Earlier, the Rev had called in a light designer he knows who normally works on Broadway shows, movies, and museum installations. She gave us some solutions, but we've not had the time or inclination to implement any of her suggestions. We also need to repaint and re-lacquer the main sanctuary, re-do the roof, the list goes on.
I'm still gung-ho, though I'm no longer blissfully unaware of the Quixotic nature to the task. (This is typical of me. I'll leap into no win situations full of good intentions and the persistence God reserves for those beast to dumb to know when their beat, but tell me I can make money doing it or that the chances are stacked in my favor and I'll immediately lose interest.) We set up an appointment for later in the week so I can spend some time with the building records and the current condition reports.
After discussing the building, we shot the shit about, of all things, Franklin Roosevelt. We broke up the session around 9:30.
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