Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rich Talks Church

Last night there was a city council meeting regarding whether a second Giant Student Apartment Building could be built right next to the Lutheran church where I sing. Just a couple of years ago they were strong-armed into allowing another Giant Student Apartment Building to be built right behind them, and they have regretted it ever since. Noise, traffice, drunk students hurling pumpkins at the bell tower... gee, what's not to love? So, as you can well imagine, the Lutherans were not one bit happy to learn that the Episcopalians next door wanted to sell part of their land to a developer.  More students throwing more pumpkins and, as an added bonus, this Giant Student Apartment Building would block morning sunlight from flowing through the church's stained glass windows.  Kathbert encouraged Richard Bonomo and me to attend the city council meeting (although she did not attend herself), and Rich gave the following incredibly moving speech which I have only edited a tiny bit for clarity and changed proper names to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent:

I come before you as a counterfeit this evening. I am sitting among the Lutherans who have been referred to but I am not a Lutheran. I am a Roman Catholic. I am in no way affiliated with Lutheran Cathedral of the West or with the Episcopal ministry next door to it. I am an engineer; I work for Hardnox University, where I manage a small nuclear fusion laboratory. I am a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety Catholic Church downtown, and I’m the volunteer building and maintenance supervisor as well. Our churches are in similar situations in that we are downtown churches with a lot of people who come from elsewhere to worship. We’re also in a similar situation in another way which has not been talked about quite as much, in that church buildings are traditionally, especially older ones, built to last. Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety, the current church has been there since 1869 and a masonry expert tells me that the building could last fifteen hundred years, at least the masonry part of the building. So, barring calamity, Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety will be there long after we’re gone, long after political boundaries have changed, who knows what. I believe we’re faced with a similar situation with Lutheran Cathedral of the West. Lutheran Cathedral was built in the Twenties, and they knew how to build churches back then. You’re looking at a building which, besides being stunningly beautiful, and built with a Gothic design which graces our campus wonderfully, has the capacity to be there for many, many centuries. But that building is meaningless without a congregation. There are a number of churches in town which no longer have congregations. They’ve become restaurants or some such thing. It’s kind of sad, actually. This must not happen to this beautiful church. Many people from this congregation have spoken to you, and they have told you in plain terms that their experience with Giant Student Apartment Building has been a bad experience. Listen to them. More of the same is not good for the congregation of Lutheran Cathedral. Lutheran Cathedral, like Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety, brings in a lot of people from the outside, and both churches serve the student population as well. These ministries do cross over in many respects. I happen to know from personal contact with the people at Lutheran Cathedral that there is a substantial student involvement there. They run a world-class choir, and a lot of the people who are in that choir are in fact affiliated with the university in one way or another. Lutheran Cathedral is an integral part of the university community, provides a wonderful break from the other buildings on campus, and is a monument to religion in the middle of our campus. Also, please bear in mind that the Chemistry Building next door will disappear at some point, Giant Student Apartment Building will probably collapse within two hundred years and be replaced by something else, but Lutheran Cathedral, God willing, will still be there one hundred, two hundred, four hundred, five hundred years… provided every generation makes the right decisions to preserve it. This is a gem. Do nothing – NOTHING – to threaten its existence.  Thank you.

Well said, Rich!  The good news is that the city council voted to reject the proposal as is, meaning the developers have to make changes.  Hopefully this will kill the whole thing.  Prayers for our Lutheran brothers and sisters would be very welcome right now.

Famous Hat


Catherine Arnott Smith said...

really fantastic talk by Richard Bonomo -- thanks so much for posting it. Simon and I were at the city council meeting too but had to leave when it got too close to my bedtime :) so we missed the Rich part.

Famous Hat said...

There is actual footage of his talk but we couldn't figure out how to extract his three-minute talk vs. the entire council meeting which takes over four hours.

Hardingfele said...

Wow, what a moving speech. I do hope that there is Higher intervention to derail the building

Famous Hat said...

Especially since the City Council seemed to think the light blockage was the only issue. No concern about noise, traffic, or pumpkins being hurled at the bell tower.