The following story was written by Carl Carlson, a past member and lay leader of Good Shepherd. Carl wrote several stories about the building of the current sanctuary, which was completed in spring of 2001, and with which he was heavily involved. The stories not only share a glimmer of Good Shepherd’s history, but also connect faith and life in real, humorous and touching ways.
It was a bold and ambitious plan! On one Sunday in April we were going to hold our last worship service in the old sanctuary sitting on the orange upholstered pews and, on the very next Sunday, we were to worship in the new sanctuary sitting on 18 pews and 115 new sanctuary chairs, all upholstered in a unique, specially selected blue fabric. The planning had gone on for months! After reviewing countless fabric colors, the Interior Design Committee had chosen “Milestone Blue Astor,” a perfect match to the blue in the new stained glass windows. Marvin, the upholsterer, had been on site in November to measure the pews to determine the amount of new fabric needed. In December, Dom, the chair manufacturer, had ordered “Blue Astor” for his chairs and an additional 100 yards of fabric for Marvin to use on the pews. Hugo Martin and I had disassembled a pew to be sure there were no surprises such as glued joints, etc. We discovered 12-foot long wooden strips with hundreds of staples that were used to hold on the old fabric. Work parties were lined up to assist in the painstaking, manual effort of removing the staples. We held our last worship service in the old sanctuary on April 15th, and on Monday morning, April 16th, Marvin and his crew showed up, the old pews were disassembled and we were on our way!
After lunch on Monday, Marvin approached me with a wary, sad look in his eyes. He had overlooked the backs of the pews and was going to need about 50 more yards of material! “No problem,” I said. I called Dom and asked him to order 50 more yards of material and get it shipped ASAP! Over the next day or so, it was kind of like a Bob Newhart sketch, only I didn’t think it was too humorous! After the beep . . . . “Hello, Dom, what’s the status on the fabric? Please call me back ASAP.” Later, “What? You say that “Blue Astor” has been discontinued by the manufacturer and you’re going to check the pipeline for warehouse supplies?” Later still, after the beep. . . “Hey, Dom, it’s Tuesday a.m. Is Blue Astor in the pipeline or not? Call me ASAP.” Tuesday noon, “Let me be sure I understand, there is no more “Blue Astor” anywhere?” At this point, our carefully planned transition to the new sanctuary was in “blue chaos.” The old pews were completely disassembled and the old fabric had been removed. Six pews had already been re-upholstered in the new fabric. The new chairs had already been upholstered in “Blue Astor” (I grew to hate that name). We clearly had to find another fabric and start over.
I felt a strong desire to vent my frustration and anger at both Marvin and his incorrect measurements, and Dom, who had provided samples of a fabric that had been discontinued. But then, I recalled the gifts of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. I decided that somehow, we were going to get through this “blue chaos” without shouting, finger-pointing, threats and angry exchanges. By Wednesday, Dom had miraculously located 250 yards of another blue fabric, which was a perfect color match and a superior fabric for upholstery work. We used temporary chair seating on the following Sunday in the new sanctuary. The next week, Marvin started over on the pews, re-upholstering the six previously completed pews for no charge. Dom re-upholstered the sanctuary chairs at no charge. (Ultimately, the general contractor reimbursed us for the cost of new fabric, since it was construction delays that resulted in the unavailability of the fabric when we needed it.)
Isn’t it remarkable how often our life experiences are similar to “blue chaos?” Most of us try to carefully plan our lives, anticipating every need and charting our course to logical, desirable destinations. But more often than not, our plans dissolve into the unexpected chaos of life. Unanticipated events impinge on us and we sometimes feel like rudderless ships afloat on the troubled waters. During chaotic times, we need to call on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, for they will serve as the “rudder” for our actions, ensuring a safe course through the storm. As Christians, how we steer our ships during the storms of our lives is far more important than reaching our destinations on time, or even reaching them at all!
Now you know the “inside” story. . . . . . . .Carl Carlson