Building Specialists Needed
E. D. CALKINS Pastor and Building Consultant, East Pennsylvania Conference
In the East Pennsylvania Conference we have approximately thirty men in the field. Seventeen of these men are either planning building programs or are now engaged in construction work. A few of them, very few, have laymen in the congregation competent to direct in a building program; consequently the pastor must almost always bear the load.
A fellow minister said to me the other day, "Brother, this is my first experience in building." He was fearful of what move to make next. A braggadocio would have plunged ahead and considered later. "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."
I believe all of our ministers endeavor to do their best. The pity is that the only instruction most of us get in this field is through experience. In this case it is generally a costly experiment. It is like some laboratory experiments that just do not turn out as expected. On the average most of our ministers have a first experience in building. Some try it again; others know better. Consequently we have built, and in some cases are continuing to build, a motley group of structures.
A young minister in his overalls, working in the basement of a half-finished church, looked up as I walked in, and said, "They never taught me this in college." True! He studied history, Bible doctrines, sermon preparation, and Greek. Now he faces something more difficult than Greek, for he has no instructor upon whom to call for help.
I find that one half the time of many pastors of small churches with a building program under way is consumed with such a job. If a pastor has a practical bent he is fortunate. If he worked in the mill in college his courage is increased. If he worked with a construction gang he faces his task with confidence.
Some Constructive Suggestions
But what are we as a denomination doing to help the majority of our ministers who were not fortunate enough to have had experience and training in the building trades? The following remarks of this article are presented to stimulate our thinking, and to serve only as suggested methods for meeting our need. In most conferences we have a department headed by a man who counsels the pastors and laymen on the latest methods and plans for giving Bible studies and related home missionary projects. This is good. But every minister is a specialist in his community on how to do missionary work at home. He has spent four or five years studying materials and methods. This is his field.
We are doing a fine job of raising our missions quotas through our main sources, largely because of organization, promotion, and leadership from the top down. No other denomination of any consequence gives for missions as Adventists do. Promotion is the secret.
The same cannot be said of our home church and school structures in many cases. The reason is twofold. First, no one in authority is coming to see whether your building quota was reached for this year. In other words there is no departmental secretary from the local, union, and General conferences who makes an annual check on every church relative to its structural soul-winning potential. Second, our ministers have had no training for such work. Some few took a helpful course in printing, others in bookbinding, or small-crops gardening. Now they set about to do their best in a new and untried vocation.
Many Protestant denominations have building consultants who work with the pastors and building committees, giving guidance as to design, architectural services, plans, and financial campaigns. Such professional advice has assured these denominations of a standard of church architecture, and the elimination of costly mistakes. Such a service in our denomination could well prove to be very popular and certainly welcome by pastors and churches. We could then have some assurance of pleasant, attractive structures even though necessarily small and simple.
Today building trends are rapidly changing with the introduction of new materials and methods of construction. Functional plans are evolving. The busy pastor is hardly in a position to keep abreast of new developments with out specialized help. A consultant could fill such a need.
Many local conferences may desire such a service. Certainly every union field might well afford one man to work in such specialized lines with the pastors and churches.
Conference Building Crews
The organization in a local field might be carried a step further with real profit. With several building programs developing in various stages in the conference area, the conference could arrange to employ a small crew to engage in the building work. With the entire field organized, it would be relatively simple to keep the crew busy. When one structure is completed, the workmen would move to the next. Some churches might need to wait a year to begin, but with counseling help and competent work men they would no doubt finish a year earlier and with a finer building.
Such a crew, which would certainly include at least one carpenter and one mason, could be augmented with local laborers. They would logically be paid from the building fund of the local church. This plan would not rule out any volunteer help of local members, but would assure a wise direction of their efforts. Tradeunion difficulties might arise in a few large centers if the project were large, but churches are not generally molested as are public building projects.
Some time ago I walked into a church that was being decorated. Upon the scaffolding over head sat two painters, smoking cigarettes as they rested. A strange feeling came over me. This was God's house. Smoking and cursing were entirely out of place. Surely, I thought, there must be a better way.
When Solomon was about to build the Temple he sought for a man to direct the work. "Minute specifications, in writing, regarding every portion of the sacred structure, had been entrusted to the king; and he could have looked to God in faith for consecrated helpers, to whom would have been granted special skill for doing with exactness the work required. But Solomon lost sight of this opportunity to exercise faith in God. He sent to the king of Tyre for a man . . . "Thus at the head of Solomon's company of workmen there was placed a man whose efforts were not prompted by an unselfish desire to render service to God. He served the god o£ this world, mammon. . . . "Gradually the wrong principles that he cherished came to he accepted by his associates. . . . The spirit of self-denial left them, and in its place came the spirit of covetousness. . . . The baleful influences thus set in operation permeated all branches of the Lord's service, and extended throughout the kingdom." Prophets and Kings, pp. 63, 64. (Italics supplied.)
No doubt these words deserve more study than we have given them: "His glory must be the motive of all who are laborers together with Him. All our work is to be done from love to God, and in accordance with His will. "It is just as essential to do the will of God when erecting a building as when taking part in a religious service. And if the workers have brought the right principles into their own character-making, then in the erection of every building they will grow in grace and knowledge." Christ's Object Les sons, p. 350.
Would it not be in harmony with the will of God for conferences to select men filled with His Spirit and wisdom in the construction crafts to build churches and schools for Him today? Why not? We have become a great denomination institutional-wise. Our academies and colleges conform to somewhat of a pattern that is distinctive from that of other schools. Of our sanitariums the same might be said. But when we turn to the field of church construction we find an unorganized, heterogeneous display. There is no pattern or Adventist theme or characteristic. A Christian Science church can be recognized by a uniform architecture in almost any section of the United States. Perhaps that is not necessary for us. But that there should be some safeguard thrown about the sacrificial gifts of our dear people to assure them of a representative structure in return is the least of our obligations.
The age of experiments should be about over. Let us pray that soon we shall enter the age of experience.