Symbol of renewal: Church building gets fresh look, new life for Easter
A historic downtown Oklahoma City church received a makeover of sorts just in time for Easter Sunday, and some of the traditional observances preceding it.
As the Lenten season began in February, crews began extensive repairs on the interior of St. Joseph Old Cathedral, 307 NW 7, at an estimated cost of $100,000, said the Rev. Price Oswalt, the church's pastor.
Oswalt said this work was preceded by a project to repair the church building's exterior.
He said the 115-year-old church received significant damage as a result of the Alfred P. Murrah Building on April 19, 1995. Located adjacent to the Murrah Building, the church sustained much damage to its roof in particular. The damage was patched up over the years. Oswalt said despite church leaders' best efforts, the roof has leaked for the last 24 years, but the exterior damage was finally repaired in February.
During the interior renovation project, Oswalt and his congregation became familiar with the sight of scaffolding and other equipment in the sanctuary. Water damage destroyed decorative painting with custom plaster and paint, so color matching had to be done and some of the plaster had to be repaired. Part of the ceiling is about 35 feet tall, and another part is about 60 feet tall, so scaffolding was needed. Areas featuring gold leaf had to be stripped of damage and repainted.
"This is kind of the completion of it all," the priest said.
The church repairs became a metaphor for the rejuvenation of the heart that many Christians experience in the weeks before Easter. Oswalt said this metaphor made its way into some of his Lenten homilies and may find its way into his gospel message during Mass on Easter.
"It's great progress. One of the things I told the congregation when the scaffolding went up is that it was perfect that it was up during Lent because it was kind of sign that God's renewing the church. So it's all kind of a symbol for us. What's happening in the interior of the church is what's happening in the inside of us, that He should be fixing us and repairing what's been leaking in us," Oswalt said. "It's kind of a good metaphor for us so that we will be fresh and new for Easter."
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Notre Dame parallel
Oswalt said the church renovation project came to mind when he saw news reports of the famed Notre Dame Cathedral going up in flames on Monday in Paris.
A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of that cathedral as it was undergoing renovations, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world. The blaze collapsed the cathedral's spire and spread to one of its landmark rectangular towers, but the church's structure had been saved after firefighters managed to stop the fire spreading to the northern belfry. The 12th-century cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is one of the world's most famous tourist attractions.
The exact cause of the blaze was not known, but French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire is "potentially linked" to a $6.8 million renovation project on the church's spire and its 250 tons of lead. The Paris prosecutors' office ruled out arson and possible terror-related motives, and said it was treating it as an accident.
Oswalt said he saw some parallels between the call and commitment to repair the centuries-old cathedral in Paris with the ongoing needs and repairs that will be needed for the local cathedral.
"The call to repair Notre Dame is really a call for us," he said.
"This is going to be an ongoing project for us. This church is 115 years old and has the constant need for repairs. That's an 800-year-old church that has been kept up, so imagine what the needs are there. They say it's going to take five years, but it may take at least a decade. We're going to be on a decade timeline to keep the repairs up and going."
CONTRIBUTING: The Associated Press