Ten years ago, these were the pews where 60+ friends, relatives, and hangers-on gathered to watch a truly peachy-keen woman agree to holy matrimony with this one dorky guy who read too many comics.
We’d known each other since 1987, when we met in high school, but neither of us imagined a shared scene like that taking place seventeen years later in a setting like this. With each other or with anyone else.
These were the seats we declared neutral territory for one sweet, harmonious hour. Ceasefires were firmly in effect between multiple factions and upheld with utmost sincerity. Spotters reported no stray violations during this joyous peacetime. How serious were we about walking the walk? The lady in charge of the bride’s hair and makeup was my ex-wife.
Up front was the stage where we recited our vows, stood patiently yet anxiously while our pastor conducted the ceremony, reading through the verses that we’d all agreed upon and weaving them together into an eloquent narrative of faith, love, and promises. She and I were jittery all throughout, but we nailed our marks, said all the right things, and managed the Unity Candle lighting without setting the table on fire, though one of the candles stayed inert for several agonizing seconds before it would relent and burn for us.
This was the launchpad where our journey as husband and wife began — Year One, Day One, Minute One.
This was a smaller chapel in a nearly 40-year-old church with over two thousand members. The sanctuary that hosts the larger Sunday services is several times the size of the chapel, which was used primarily for early-Sunday “classic” services for early-to-rise morning people and for older members who prefer time-tested hymns over Christian pop in their worship music. Meetings and special occasions like ours were welcomed in the chapel as well.
The church is still there. Membership remains strong, though we don’t recognize as many faces as we once did. Some of that is the result of standard attrition.
The pastor who married us is no longer there. He and the church parted ways earlier this year, and he’s now a delightful lead pastor in another town with a very blessed congregation to shepherd.
The chapel is also no longer there. The influx of new members, curious visitors, and various guests has boosted attendance to a level that the main sanctuary is proving inadequate to contain comfortably. Construction recently began on a sort-of “second stage” sanctuary where the future plan is to hold additional services simultaneously with those in the main sanctuary. This new performance area will take up the space formerly occupied by what used to be our chapel, one adjoining classroom where we used to attend adult Bible classes, and the bridal ready room where ex-wife and wife-to-be once collaborated.
As of this writing, work is still underway on this project, gated and secluded behind temporary plywood walls while the builders wield their tools and skill sets in privacy. On our side of the wall, members remain curious and hopeful about the opportunities and blessings we hope will result from this ambitious change in the years ahead.
I snapped this picture while making my rounds on volunteer duty, not long before the chapel held its final service. A short time later, the walls went up and all around, and the unseen dismantling commenced. The march of progress is not ours to see until the reconstruction enters its final, photogenic phase.
In the meantime, our cozy little wedding venue is gone, but not forgotten. The cushioned pews, the modest stage, and the aging carpet may have been taken out, but our God remains eternal, our marriage perseveres, our hearts go on, and our memories are still vibrant, cherished keepsakes of that extraordinary day in the chapel-that-was.