Images built in stained glass surround the room, telling stories to anyone willing to pause and look. Sunlight casts multiple shades around the room as gold, blue, and rose fill the backgrounds and then the carpet.
Mismatched tables are placed around the room. They are in an order at the start of the day, you can tell from the vacuum patterns on the floor. But with each set of customers is a shift. One group needs two tables or maybe three. A student wants to draw as far into the corner as possible, pilling up books as a barrier to sound. Toddlers shuffle chairs closer to guardians for protection and a bite of that cookie. Less than half the chairs have cushions, and those surviving are patched and worn. Being pulled into the occasional pill fight in the kids’ area has not helped the longevity of their cotton insides.
A dormant fireplace centers the room, along with four high chairs in front of it. No flames are allowed so instead candles are placed to inspire the imagination without adding risk.
Other, smaller rooms fill the building. They seem disconnected from one another as though each had a separate designer or perhaps was built by a different generation of the church. Pink walls and ceiling blast out of a dressing room; they are a force field for any man who might dare to look inside. A small library barely has space for a table, let alone patrons, as each wall is hidden behind a filled bookcase. And the carpeted hallway is empty except for a blackboard covered with events for the day.
The largest room is the sanctuary. It is also the one with the least light, the least noise, and the least eccentricity. Electric candles dimly light the walls around twenty wooden pews. A sign at the entrance asks visitors to be quiet and respectful of others sitting inside; the sign at the exit offers blessing and encourages return. Thick walls keep the room separate from the chaos happening all around the building. Sitting in the near darkness, it is hard to imagine there is a bustling utility space right below where a pet bazaar, a teacher training, or a counseling session could be taking place.
In the middle of a church built a century ago is a silent room for sitting apart from the chaos that is the day, the time, the pressure of this world. And in every other room is the chaos of community acting and reacting with one another. This is life in a sacred space. All and none. Already and not yet.