After more than a year spent in the proverbial wilderness, the congregation of Grace Episcopal Church will be back in its own sanctuary this morning for worship services.
Churchgoers were chased from the building after an Aug. 23, 2011, earthquake and its aftershocks, centered in Virginia, rattled the creeky old brick walls, worsened the cracks and destabilized the structure. Afraid the 166-year-old walls would cave in, Grace officials quickly engaged 4SE Structural Engineers to shore them up and begin necessary repairs.
Meanwhile, worshippers wandered.
The thing is, the wilderness beyond Grace turned out to be a pretty friendly place. Several nearby churches (Episcopalian, AME, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Roman Catholic) and one synagogue threw open their doors, ensuring that Grace’s liturgies remained roofed.
Grace’s congregants might have been cast out by unstable earth and brick, but they were warmly sheltered.
About 13 months later, the walls are repaired and strengthened, the Rev. Canon J. Michael Wright said.
“Our engineers say the building is safer than it was before the 1886 earthquake, and probably safer than it was upon being built in 1846,” Wright said.
Inside the space, one would never know about nature’s recent tap-tap-tapping, said Nancy Ezell Suggs, director of parish life and giving programs at Grace. But there’s still a little outside work to do, and some fine-tuning in the rafters.
All the work cost $5 million, which had to be borrowed from the endowment and from the bank, Suggs said. The “Home to Grace” capital campaign now under way is meant to replenish the former and repay the latter.
But today, it’s a different sort of accounting that’s occupying worshippers. They can take the measure of their sacred space.
They are back in their pews, seated in the choir loft, poised at the altar, ready for rejoicing.
Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902. Follow him at www.facebook.com/ aparkerwriter.