More than two years ago I was at a church conference in Cambridge, MA one Sunday afternoon when the fire alarm went off. I don’t think anyone really thought that this was the real deal. But everyone exited calmly and without much incident. It eventually involved some 5 or so firetrucks including those from neighboring towns to put the fire out. Most of us watched in awe as the roof eventually gave way to the flames and the firefighters retreated a bit so as not to be overcome. The water didn’t come on as quick as I thought it would, but I trusted the professionals knew what they were doing. The picture included in my post was some time after the fire had been extinguished (at least from my vantage point) and the little cascade at the entrance continued for some time after. I had only attended church at the building for about a year, but as expected, I felt a sense of loss. The sense of loss would be keener if it were the chapel in Arvada, CO that I attended regularly growing up.
I have so many memories of the Arvada Stake Center as we referred to it. Many nights playing basketball in a church league or just a regular pick-up game. I remember a few plays that were put on in the same gymnasium that also had a stage on one side. Mormons and non-Mormons alike that wanted to share their talents prepared for months for a production that would entertain all ages from that stage. The grounds was mostly parking lot, but there was grass around the entire building and a bit of a vacant lot in the back for football or soccer. I remember several summers in warm Colorado weather with charcoal smoke in the air, hot-dog and hamburger buns on serving tables, potato chips and a couple of farm troughs full of iced sodas. Mormons and friends gathered for a July 4th celebration or for no other reason than to come together for socializing.
I attended the chapel more frequently in high-school when I actually got up at 5 am every morning to go to scripture study class or seminary as we call it. It was there that I was challenged to read through the old testament and new testament. The classes were taught by members who were not especially compensated, but who nonetheless accepted an invitation to teach a bunch of sleepy teenagers. There was one seminary teacher who went around to all the classrooms to serve chocolate pancakes with vanilla ice-cream with some frequency (one Friday a month) and he got his class to do all the cooking and serving. Though it was tough on account of the schedule it was fun and the class motivated me to take up reading the scriptures which resulted in a significant change in my life. I gained a greater consciousness of the impact we can have on others. My resolve to do better in all areas of my life was strengthened. Seminary wasn’t the only opportunity to grow and learn in not just a spiritual dimension. There were firesides or special guest speakers who directed their talks to the youth or adults, to women or men. These events helped me contemplate my life and our potential and capacity for good. And of course there were Sunday services and much more.
For some who had spent a significant amount of time in Cambridge and who attended the Longfellow chapel, the initial reaction to the fire that occurred two years ago was understandably, for some, an emotional one. Fortunately the exterior remained intact and the building has been restored to it’s former self with a few improvements. Though completely different experiences will be had for regulars and visitors alike at the Longfellow chapel, I trust that most will have fond memories.