I spent part of Saturday at the Open House for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, just at the top of the hill.
The event was to celebrate the recent renovations to their physical plant — which is in and of itself a marvel. The building contains classrooms, meeting rooms, a space for Sunday services, a genealogy library that is, in itself, an amazing public service as well as spiritual resource for the members, a gymnasium which doubles as a theater for performances by schoolchildren, a kitchen to serve all these functions — all adorned simply (at least compared to the ways this former Catholic kid is used to imagining Church spaces).
But beyond the simple beauty of the spaces, there was the tour’s rich descriptions of the lives lived therein. As a child, I tried to guess which minister was assigned to which Mass because Father Gil usually ran 20 minutes shorter than Father Perry. In this community, Sunday is filled with worship, with study, and with planning — mapping activities that carry deep into the week. Whether volunteering with Animal Allies, preparing for advanced seminary study for the high school students early in the morning, or arranging classes in canning and sewing, Sunday is not just the day one “drops out” of everyday life to spend with one’s God; it is the day where one’s religion is threaded through the remainder of one’s week. Even Mother-Daughter Volleyball games bring this community together.
As I reflect on earlier threads on PDD about the sense that Duluth is not a welcoming community, I can’t help but think about the ways that this community constructs what it needs, spiritually, socially, ethically, and materially, among the common resources they bring together.
Because the remodeling was the occasion for the open house, I asked how old the original spaces were. The community’s current lay leader (leadership roles are shared among the members of the community), who is also my coworker at the University, pointed across the room to one of the guys who participated in the initial construction. All of this physical plant, then, and this community, are the construct of just a generation or two. It makes me hopeful about what is possible in any community.