Our church has a business meeting every quarter, and I try to attend. About 30 people out of almost 300 “members and attenders” show up, which is 10% of the congregation. Unlike most business meetings that I have attended over the years, those at our church don’t last long. It will be better attended tonight and last longer than usual because the main topic is building a new Fellowship Hall.
But l should explain: There is no “old” Fellowship Hall, so the “new” one will really be new and not replace any old one. What I mean by the “old” fellowship hall is where we meet in the “narthex” of the church. When Joice and I first joined the church, I didn’t know what a narthex was, and my son-in-law thought it was a disease. However, upon inquiry, I realized it was the central foyer or entrance of the church. Our church does not mind using Latin words, like narthex, Eucharist, gratia, sanctus, credo, as well as some liturgical melodies. Latin phrases can suggest sincerity if spoken or sung properly.
We are encouraged to take a special interest in our environment, so why not emphasize our concern in by voicing it in Latin? Let’s start with Gratia non tollit naturam, sed perficit, meaning “Grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it.” or “Grace does not remove nature, but fulfills it.” For help, we can look up some Latin religious words and phrases to add to our vocabulary. There are 146 pages of them on Wikipedia and by consulting the list we can be ready for future Latin pronouncements.
Tonight about 50 people are crowded around round tables in the narthex, which is a clever way of making us realize that we really do need a larger place to meet. It is also the annual night of the pie and cake sale when members donate and then buy large pies and cakes, all to help the young people camp somewhere for the summer, or at least a week of the summer. Our narthex is therefore jam-packed with people colliding with their cakes, pies, and drinks. If you are on the cleaning committee and responsible for cleaning up the crumbs, it is easy to be convinced of the need for a Fellowship Hall.
The chairperson, who happens to be a man, has a PowerPoint that portrays a rendering of our future Hall. It has been well conceived with parking areas, walkways, and shrubs, surrounding a large building with many windows. The Hall will allow a view of the beautiful Oak Grove, with its old Live Oak trees, where we can also view a miniature statue by the St Francis tree. It is St Francis himself, and he is holding a bird, almost as big as a chicken and he is talking to it. The chicken is obviously listening and must know some Latin.
There is only one problem about the Fellowship Hall, and it may turn out to be a deal-breaker: As presently conceived, it will cost 3.5 million dollars, and we have only $229,615.68 in the Building Fund. That is like your teenage son wanting to buy a Cadillac when he has only a bicycle pedal for collateral. However, the PowerPoint does give us some hope on how to overcome the problem. If everyone could contribute perhaps 3 to 5 times as much as they do now, and if we take out a BIG mortgage for 30 years, we can probably build the Hall.
That projection is somewhat frightening, so we pause for more pie and coffee. Some wild ideas are suggested, or at least imagined. I have a few myself. What about renting a tent and calling it the Fellowship Tent? By using a tent, we might also foster a revival, as tents are prone to do. I read that Ohenry Productions builds the finest Revival Tents in the world and at affordable prices. American Tent also has gospel tents for sale, and they are “easily transportable” and could be moved about on the church grounds.
Tents were used at camp meetings. “The first camp meeting took place in July 1800, at Gasper River Church in southwestern Kentucky. A much larger one was held at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in August 1801, where between 10,000 and 25,000 people attended. According to those present, “The noise was like the roar of Niagara,” wrote eyewitness James B. Finley in his autobiography” (from appalachianhistory.net). There is a lot of potential in tents.
My second (and last) suggestion is that we build a Tabernacle Hall. Such buildings do not need sides and the floor can be sawdust. I read (online of course) that “hitting the sawdust trail” was “the path of conversion to a gospel or belief,” and when someone was on the trail “the hallelujahs [would] shake the tabernacle.” On second thought, that does not seem to fit well with the cutline of our church, which is “Sacred & Simple.”
I am probably the only one at our church who can make such observations about camp meetings and tabernacles. That is because I was born in a cottage at a camp meeting ground (Patterson Grove, PA), and it had a tabernacle. Admittedly, it had a cement floor later because the sawdust caused so much sneezing that it was hard to hear the preacher.
The business meeting is almost over, and I (fortunately) did not get to offer my suggestions on how to get out of this cramped narthex and have a real Fellowship Place. However, I can tell by the enthusiasm of the members that we are going to do something. I’m not sure when or what, but we will.