Much of what I’ve learned about restoration was gained in my 35 year odyssey of restoring my 1956 Oldsmobile Super 88. Simply that it has taken me so long—my interior isn’t finished yet—reminds us that this work is never fully finished…We are conducting a comprehensive structural survey of our Meetinghouse, office and educational wing. We will go after the big things first.
I performed all of the body work on this Oldsmobile. When I bought it in 1981, it had no hood, no fender and 25 scattered rust holes. I was taught to shape sheet metal into body panels, weld them in, secure them with fiberglass, cover the fiberglass with plastic, use body putty to hide all surface flaws, sanding over and over…Restoring our Meetinghouse is a multi-step process, each step asking much patience. Right now Kronenberger and Sons Restoration temporarily shores up broken trusses, so the insulation can be safely removed, so the inspection can be finished, so a reconstruction plan can be conceived, so bids might be put out, so we might hire a contractor. None of the subsequent steps can be undertaken until the previous step is correctly completed.
Upon evaluating this Olds before buying it, I imagined that I knew precisely what it needed and how I to go about it. But as I tapped my hammer on pinholes of rust, I discovered layers of dirt and rust dust holding whole sections together. Rust holes emerged in wheel wells, invisible to the eye. I spent many hours renewing sections that other human eyes will never see…Do expect surprises as we proceed with our reconstruction. They’re not anyone’s fault, but the nature of restoration. I checked with the Kronenberger workers yesterday. They found another big crack in the trusses upon the floor of our attic, holding up the ceiling and roof. It confirms how urgent this work is and how blessed we are that this has come to light before any unwitting disasters.
When I acquired the Oldsmobile, I decided to go stock rather than modified. So my goal was to put it back like it originally was rather than painting flames on it or chopping down a lower roof. To reupholster the seats, I found a swath of the original 1956 fabric still on the bolt used to sew the seats back together….Restoring a colonial Meetinghouse presents special challenges. But let’s agree that preserving its historic nature, while making it fully functional, must be our goal.
I could go on and on. But I conclude by saying the Bible also treats the theme of restoration. When Israel was exiled to Babylon for 50 years, they yearned for restoration, “I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first.” (Jer. 33.7)
Before Jesus ascended, his disciples wondered what it all meant, what everything they had shared finally added up to, “….they asked Jesus, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’” Restoration means culmination and fulfillment and finding our way home.
Even if our exile is only so far as the Parish Hall, we’ll acutely feel this same longing to be home within our worship sanctuary. We will miss it. Our patience shall be tested, but also rewarded.