Published DateLACONIA — Paul the Apostle addressed the Corinthians when he wrote "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," but his words reached some hundred parishioners of St. James Episcopal Church who attended the service last evening at which their earthly house was deconsecrated.
The parish, which was founded in 1862, has worshipped at the church on North Main Street since it was consecrated on June 6, 1965, but earlier this year agreed to sell the property to the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region.
The Rt. Rev. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, opened by noting that "it is a great honor and privilege, though a heavy one" to conduct the service on what he called "a difficult day."
When the bishop invited parishioners to reflect on the occasion more than a dozen stepped forward. One woman said that she was "excited" since by passing the building to the Boys and Girls Club "we are supporting the community and the world beyond these walls."
A man assured his fellow parishioners that "the spirit that came here and drew us closer to God is still with us" while another declared "this isn't the end. The end is a long way away."
When a woman said "it's just a building, we're the church," another insisted "it's not just a building" and broke down in tears.
Likening the moment to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, Hirschfeld said that "in emptying out of God's people from this building, we experience a resurrection" and reminded the parishioners "we are not going to be left on the cross forever."
The new arrangement between St. James Episcopal Church and the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, by which the two will hold services in the same building on Parade Road, the bishop said is "a glimmer of hope." Appropriately the relationship between the two churches was foreshadowed in the lines of the opening hymn: "Oh, may thy house be mine abode, and all my work be praise. The world I find a settled rest, while others go and come, no more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home."
Speaking to parishioners of St. James , David Dalzell, pastor of Good Shepherd, reminded them that when his church was founded in the 1980s, its members worshipped at St. James. "Now it's our turn," he said, handing the keys of his church to Tobias Nyatsambo, the pastor of St. James.
Cheryl Avery, executive director of the Boy and Girls Club, spoke briefly of its mission to enable and encourage young people to realize their full potential. "Things are being raised up and made anew," Bishop Hirschfeld said, adding that with the presence of the Boys and Girls Club "God's work will be taking place inside our walls."
The bishop closed the service by reading a formal statement deconsecrating the building and all within it.
St. James parishioners will continue meeting at the building through the end of the month. The Boys & Girls Club is already using some of the rooms for its activities.