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Hauntingly Beautiful

Have you ever walked through a big empty building? Did the darkness and emptiness seem beautiful? A few weeks ago I did just that, and took several pictures of its glory.


I've always been fascinated by empty buildings, especially old ones. As I amble through its rooms I often imagine what secrets it holds, what life was like in its past. The old saying, "If the walls could talk", never rings more true than in old buildings. My latest encounter wasn't in an abandoned structure, but a familiar one. It was in the church where I grew up, and flooded memories to my mind.


I was on the way to a group meeting where my mom was speaking. On a whim, I took the less traveled path of my youth to get there. Years ago it was the main thoroughfare to the level below, but new additions have slowed down its traffic. I stopped in my tracks to snap some photos of the old Sanctuary.


I'd spent most of my growing up years in that room. I was baptized there. I sang in many choirs on its steps and in its choir loft. I'd gotten many "Momma looks" to behave while sitting on the front pew waiting on dad to come down from leading music. I received a crown and scepter in an Acteen service there. I saw civil rights picketers walk down the aisles there. I saw racial reconciliation services there. My first wedding was there. My mom directed many weddings there. My children were dedicated there. My dad's funeral was there. That room helped form who I am today in so many ways.


As a child, I'd sometimes accompany my dad on Saturday nights to set up for Sunday's services. We'd arrange the chairs in the choir loft just so, as he was a stickler for assigned seats to get the best sound from his choir. I was never too scared to roam the halls as he worked in his office, or play hide and seek with him before we left. It was my second home, and exploring it was second nature to me. There was something special about being alone within its walls. As an adult, I realize roaming around a downtown church probably wasn't the safest thing to do, but I always felt safe there. I'd hear my dad scream, "Beth, Dahlin'! What floor are you on?", I'd answer, and we'd meet somewhere in the middle with a huge hug as he exclaimed, "There you are, Precious!" (It's amazing how far your voice will carry in an empty building)


The old stairway led down to the Rec Room where the Youth met. There wasn't anything fancy about it, but it hosted the teenagers perfectly. There were ping pong, pool, and foosball tables; Sunday school rooms that flanked the main hall; and a kitchen for serving Sunday night supper or fellowships. This was also the room where the Living Christmas Tree's branches were sprayed with flame resistant sticky stuff on large plastic sheets laid out over the linoleum floor which was emblazoned with shuffleboard triangles. There was always a slip n slide type party once the branches were finished. I remembered I wore my dad's "36" jersey the Youth Choir gave him on his 36th birthday each year for the spray down. I have no idea how momma got that nasty substance out of the shirt, but it was clean and ready for me to wear year after year. Isn't it funny what memories come back just from being in an empty stairwell?


The Sanctuary is not used for Sunday services any longer, but it still hosts weddings on a regular basis. The stairs are not on the main pathways, so they're less travelled. I bet some current church members don't even know they exist. But that didn't make me sad. It made me feel as if I shared special secrets with the old building. Things that only those who'd been there 30-40 years ago could understand. It was a warm and comforting feeling, and I'm so glad I paused to drink it in.


Do you have stories or pictures of old buildings you love? Share them at bethroperstewart.com Here are the pics from my second home.



If these walls could talk, they'd choose to SING!

The Tiffany windows are extraordinary! They stream color into the room when the lights aren't on.

There are stained glass angels in this dome, but the light was off. There is a huge dome built over this one, and that's the one seen from outside. Sunlight never hits these angels.

The old choir loft, and where the 3 Living Christmas Trees stood. I counted these pipes so many times as a child.

Around the corner to the right of these steps, there is a door to the outside. I split my chin open on the marble steps right outside that door.

This spooky staircase led to the Rec Room. I can still smell the flame retardant stuff.

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