The Notre Dame Cathedral now has something in common with the Virginia Theological Seminary.
Last April, the entire world watched in horror as the Notre Dame Cathedral lost its spire and its roof just a few precious days away from Easter Sunday. The Notre Dame Cathedral is more than just a house of worship, it's a hallowed structure that has lovingly welcomed all with open arms like a tenderhearted grandmother.
Churches are more than baptisms, funerals, weddings, and sermons; they are a hospital for the aches of the heart and soul. With over 850 years standing in service, watching Notre Dame burn was witnessing a violent act against history, faith, art, and culture. Everywhere you looked on social media there were tributes poured out and photographs shared, all remarking on its powerful beauty.
Alexandria's own Virginia Theological Seminary also knows the agony of losing a treasured member of their community when on October 22, 2010, their 129-year-old Immanuel Chapel went up in flames. Much like Notre Dame, the fire was accidental, but the devastation was no different. Without any smoke detectors or sprinkler systems installed, the chapel was overcome by flames.
Precious features such as the Tiffany stained-glass windows and an altar rail sourced from wood in Liberia that was brought back by the Seminary's first bishop were destroyed. Much like the Notre Dame, tributes from the community flooded the Seminary. Worshipers recalled memories of Immanuel Chapel like weddings and baptisms, as well as gathering in the pews while smoke billowed from the Pentagon during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Five years later, the chapel was rebuilt, standing more beautifully than before with sound structural integrity and modern construction.
A fire is nothing short of heart-rending, but it does not signify the end. French President Emmanuel Macron said that Notre Dame Cathedral could be rebuilt by 2024, the same year Paris is set to host the Olympics.
While it is true that houses of worship may only just be buildings, churches are more than just structures to those who have had their lives changed within their walls. It is between those walls that vows are taken, blessings are given, prayers are spoken, and mourners are comforted. No matter if it's a seminary chapel or an ornate cathedral, no house of worship is ever truly beyond repair. Whether it takes months or years to rebuild, healing comes with every brick and beam that is laid.