Worship, weddings, concert rehearsals, book groups, and 12 step meetings– Old South Church is not just a center of worship in Boston, but a focal point where community gathers. When one group adjourns, rooms are cleaned, tables and chairs are rearranged, and the bathrooms are attended to so that another gathering can quickly convene. And those are just the planned visits. People “drop by” Old South all the time – to pray, to take pictures, to ask for help, and to learn about history. Every day, hundreds of people pass through the open doors of Old South Church.
In the midst of all this activity, which necessitates an impressive amount of planning, cleaning, and maintenance, sometimes larger, more labor intensive projects can be deferred. While the building is host to a seemingly never ending stream of visitors, some projects just can’t be done. But during this season, when physical gatherings are being discouraged, the building is receiving some much-needed love.
Our team of sextons has been hard at work getting the building ready for when we can meet in person again. Floors have been stripped and waxed, wood panels have been polished, and walls have been painted. The large wooden exterior doors, always open under normal circumstances, have been sanded and stained. One door was in such distress – dry and cracking from age and weather – that our senior sexton, Elias Perez, says he soothed the door by speaking to it while he applied the restorative stain.
In the sanctuary, the pew cushions have been steam cleaned, the carpet has been shampooed, Bibles and hymnals have been wiped down, and the wood has been polished.
“The sanctuary even smells different,” remarked Old South’s minister of music, Mitchell Crawford, who visits the sanctuary regularly to practice the organ and keep himself and the instrument in good playing condition.
And there is more work to be done. A building such as this (four buildings to be exact) requires plenty of care and attention. This rare season, while closing our doors, has opened up the opportunity to show some extra love to this already cherished building. This is important, because even though the usual parade of gatherings and visitors may be absent, the building remains a focal point of community.
Marathon banners hung from the building over marathon weekend, and Pride flags took their place during the month of June in testament to the gatherings we longed for but could not attend. The large welcome sign on the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth streets – which was also painted – reads Black Lives Matter in solidarity with the concerns of our community. And on Juneteenth, the tower bell rang out for 10 minutes to celebrate emancipation.
The building is ready for when we return, and it is beautiful. Beautiful because of all the love shown to it by our devoted team of sextons, and beautiful with all the love it will contain when the community once again gathers under its roof.