“Knowing can be a curse on a person’s life”
Sue Monk Kidd from The Secret Life of Bees.
My profession and vocation requires that I spend more than the usual amount of time inside the church. While most church goers spend maybe a couple to a few hours a week actually in the church, let’s just say I log a lot more hours than that. There’s so much to the life of a congregation that goes on behind the scenes. I often fantasize about a reality TV show revealing the secret life of churches. It’s not quite what the Vicar of Dibley would have you all believe.
When I was in seminary, no one told me how much I would need to know about the mechanical systems that keep a church building cool or warm, lighted, internet connected — not to mention what it takes to keep the water running and the toilets flushing. Then there’s all the city codes, permits, and inspections. In old buildings, when something breaks, the fix is never quick, cheap, or easy.
I offer to you, dear readers, a look behind the scenes, a chance to see what your minister, church staff, and a handful of brave volunteers get to see on a regular basis.
I’ll start with what it takes to troubleshoot internet and telephone connectivity.
The first step is to find this . . . .
because it’s where you’ll find this . . .
One weekday morning we all arrived at church only to discover that the phone system was completely dead. After some diligent detective work, the problem was found. Someone had flipped this . . .
which couldn’t have been done accidentally. Let’s just say that it’s not in plain sight.
When it comes time to turn on heat or air conditioning, the first step is to gather all the keys you’ll need to unlock this . . .
and everything else that’s under lock and key.
This is what’s known as “the chiller.” It’s a dinosaur. They don’t make these anymore. It’s like a gigantic evaporative cooler. The good news is that it’s more energy efficient than a fancy new air conditioner would be.
The bad news is that the other side looks like this . . .
Yes, that’s rust and hard-water buildup. But,wait, there’s more! If you unlock the door to the “furnace” room, you’ll see this . . .
and this — the instructions for turning things on and off.
And, you’re not done yet! Now you have to lock everything back up, go back into the sanctuary, and flip this . . .
and then adjust this.
I think I saw a picture of this circulating on Facebook with the caption, “Re-post if you remember what this is.”
This week we got some bad news from the backflow inspector. I bet you didn’t even know there was such a thing as a backflow inspector. His email said, and I quote, “The minimum you can do to make the existing assembly work, is replace the shut off valves. You would probably want to hire a plumber to perform that
task. The existing galvanized piping looks suspiciously rotten.”
This is all to say that we need a plumber who will have to deal with this.
And that, my friends, is the first installment of The Secret Life of Churches.
I may need to head back to seminary now. I think I need a course or two in prayer.
“There is nothing perfect . . . only life” Sue Monk Kidd from The Secret Life of Bees