Next time you find yourself next to the exterior of the sanctuary, take a look at how precisely and tightly the bricks still fit together, and how truly straight and clear-cut the dimensions and angles of the walls remain after 105 years of wind and water and engine exhaust and gravity.
But that’s not the most impressive part. Our steeple tops out at about 180 feet above ground level, yet it was designed and built with 1912 technology. And although it is in need of some basic maintenance it is, on the whole, in incredibly excellent shape.
We are currently employing carpenters, masons and roofers to refurbish the ceilings and floors and to patch up small cracks and holes in the columns and walls and roofs, but there is really no major structural work to do. The steeple still stands straight and tall, and the steel framing and tension rods that keep it that way are still doing their job just as well as they did a century ago.
My favorite part of this project, however, involves the soul and voice of the steeple (and of course the mascot of this very publication). The Chimes have faithfully served for four generations, regularly singing out peals, chants, and hymn-tunes to the neighborhood to remind all who hear that God indeed seeks a relationship with us. Although the system underwent major restoration in the mid-1990s after the great fire, the components at the top of the tower were undamaged and major maintenance was deferred until a later date and has now come due. Bill Pugh of Top Rung Tower Chime & Organ Service has carefully and lovingly dismantled the sixteen massive tubular chimes, the sixteen giant electromagnetic strikers, and their supportive wood-and-steel frame that has dominated the lantern top of the tower for over 80 years. The whole assembly up top together weighs more than a large truck. The mechanical components of the strikers are currently in Bill’s workshop in Athens, GA where they are being carefully cleaned up, adjusted, and having their coils rewound.
As you might expect, the temporary removal of the chimes superstructure has the added benefit of making the building repair work much easier, due to a greater freedom of movement up top. It also will allow for a reimagining of the design of the chimes framework itself. Instead of crowding the chimes in two rows together in the middle of the room, the new frame will sit at the perimeter in an octagon shape, allowing the chimes to hang in five of the eight archways.
Work is rolling along already on the repairs, by mid-fall the chimes work will be complete, and once again the chimes will ring out four times daily with their regular repertoire of joyful peals, introspective chants, and timeless hymns to call all who hear to come join us at church, to stop and pray, or simply to listen and sing along.