Message from our Rector


From the Rector—Stewarding Historic Church Buildings


         April's dramatic fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris dismayed huge numbers of people both in France and around the world.  (Indeed I made sure to check in with Sewanee Children's Center Director Sandy Glacet as soon as I heard.)  As the shock began to wear off, but too early to make firm plans, attention started to move toward the question of how to rebuild.  Hundreds of millions of dollars were pledged to the effort within days, prompting backlash related to tax advantages and why other projects were not similarly supported.  President Macron announced a contest for selecting the design, to be completed within five years.  A number of proposals appeared, drew reactions, and have since faded from view. 

As the initial burst of anxiety has diminished, so have the ambitions to make a quick  architectural splash.  The French Senate has voted to rebuild the roof to appear as it did at the time of the fire.  Five years is the blink of an eye when it comes to construction projects at a medieval cathedral, so it would be quite the surprise to have rebuilding complete by then.   I hope I will have the opportunity again to visit this world treasure. 

While Notre-Dame's spire collapsed dramatically in the midst of flames, Otey's bell tower has been under a far more modest threat over a longer period of time.  Not fire but its opposite--water infiltration--was discovered last year, and ways to stop it explored.  We caught the problem before there was more significant damage (and thus greater cost), and are in the midst of significant repairs.  There was no design competition; when the project is completed the tower will look like it did before.  Nor have corporations lined up to make pledges (then again, there's also been no backlash against them!). 

By making repairs proactively Otey is investing in the future of its historic buildings.  Doing so is one of the many forms of stewardship--how we tend, care for, and use something that ultimately does not belong to us but to God.  Doing so is not often dramatic.  Failing to do so can lead to drama in the form of unpredictable urgent repair bills. 

Over the last 15 years, Otey has restored, renewed, and expanded its facilities to do God's work in the congregation and in the community.  Now as we enter the time when major maintenance needs are likely to start occurring for the church and Brooks Hall, caring stewardship of our buildings will be vital.  By doing our best to keep on top of those needs and address them sooner rather than later, we will hold down costs in the long run, so that we can continue to devote the maximum of our resources to the ministry of Jesus Christ. 

Rob Lamborn