Please join us in praying for PEACE.
From Barn to Bethel
The Remarkable Renovation History of
the Light of Christ Peace Chapel
A Tiny Chapel Story
At any one time throughout the years, a town granary, a livestock barn, a tool shed and more, the humble little Light of Christ Peace Chapel of today is a building that bears the memories of over a century of Michigan's remarkable and historic yesterday's.
It is a small building made from the lumber which was milled here (in this documented Michigan ghost town),
from the virgin
white pine forests that were harvested in this area at the turn of 19th century, when Michigan was known for its vast and unrestrained lumbering efforts.
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.
Because lumber was so plentiful and inexpensive back then, and winters were long and very hard (as they still are!), the walls of
the Peace Chapel are uniquely made from 2" by 4" boards that are stacked on the flat. Given the fact that the walls are 10 feet high,
there were a great many 2-inch by 4-inch boards used to make this building! In its day, it was a staunch and sturdy structure that was build to last, and it has stood the test of time!
Unfortunately, when we purchased this property in the 1980's, the damage which the building had sustained then from years of neglect hardly seemed possible to overcome. So we, like the generations before us, put temporary patch repairs where they were immediately needed, and then just relegated the building to a variety of farm storage solutions and/or livestock housing, knowing that eventually, the building would need to be torn down - if in fact, it did not fall down first.
22 years later, we found ourselves 22 years wiser and ever more convinced that preserving the past, recycling for the future,
and reclaiming the efforts of those who came before us held more value in terms of historical respect, and resource
appreciation, than anything "new and improved" could ever have to offer.
Charting our future as monastic's, living at a Monastery which we would create from scratch,
the very first thing that we felt led to create was a "house of prayer", a dedicated Chapel.
But, there was no money for such a building project. So, we kept the issue a matter of prayer, knowing full well that God knows best.
At first, the rooms which had been use-reassigned at the main house seemed quite adequate and functional for Meetings for Worship, prayer
vigils, bible studies, prayer meetings and retreat projects, all of which were attended by guest worshipers.
Yet, the leading for a dedicated worship space stayed strong. Finally, we took a long, hard look at the little building that had
always seemed to be in the way of our "progressive" efforts, and we realized a
diamond in the rough just waiting for restoration; a tiny chapel concept was born.
And rough it was. The restoration efforts of this tiny building took many long and determined man hours, which were
largely provided by the volunteer efforts of
family and friends who worked along with us (and more often way ahead of us, bless them!) because they believed in and
supported our vision.
What we want to do here now, is to share with you a photo essay of the steps that it took to make the
Light of Christ Peace Chapel the uniquely tiny but
worthy place of prayer that it is today.
If it seems a strange concept to you that people would make a tiny peace chapel out of a building that was once animal housing, we understand.
However, what we came to appreciate during the work of this project is the perfection of this little place of space in its reassignment. After all,
our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus, was born in an abode every bit as humble and unlikely. In a place that was fit for little
more than animal housing, faithful and unassuming Mary gave birth to the King of Kings who himself did not think it beneath
himself to be brought to birth in conditions of such meagerness. And if making a
Chapel out of an animal barn felt awkward to us back then, which it did, the Holy Spirit kept us mindful, throughout the
project, of the efforts of St. Francis whose spirit also kept us reassured of Divine Providence, and that God would
be pleased with the work we were doing - or it couldn't be accomplished at all.
- 6th month, 2015
- Zechariah 4:10
A Look Back to the 1980's
Along with what is now the monastery main building (which itself is now restored),
the old granary shed was also one of
the last standing structures in this documented Michigan ghost town.
When we first arrived here in the 1980's, nearly every building on the property was
dilapidated from decades of neglect.
At that time, the old granary looked beyond repair.
Br. William was a young father then.
As a licensed builder, he saw restoration possibilities for the
general use of the building, but he advised that
it might be more work that it
was worth, and perhaps it would be best to tear down and build new. Until then, it would be used for storage.
Start by doing what's necessary;
then do what's possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
- Francis of Assisi
22 Years Later
Began With Clearing Out The "Barn"
Once the pens and gates were disassembled to be recycled, and everything was completely cleared out, it was time to
remove the floor. That became a monumental task in itself, because what was assumed to be a floor of one layer, turned
out to be a floor of 3 very heavy layers.
Foundation Replacement and
Leveling the Building
The old foundation beams all around the building were slowly removed.
The hand-hewn beams were locked together with wooden pegs.
Sadly, the beams were nearly all rotten through. This had caused the building to sag. All of the
rotten wood had to be completely removed.
Once the building was jacked up, leveled, and then braced, sand was dropped off and shoveled in.
Brother William also built a new door.
Each new foundation brace was custom measured and fitted into place, one by one.
The concrete truck arrived on a beautiful, sunny day!
Now, Brother William began the tedious task of sanding every inch of the walls.
Once the sanding was done, the walls looked like new and a coat of finish was applied.
Then, floor jacks were carefully put in place to hold up the building.
The last time a person handled these pegs, it was about 150 years ago.
Once all of the old beams were removed, the building was very slowly, one section at a time, jacked back up into
place and braced.
The sand was raked around evenly and then a sand compactor was rented and used to ready the floor for the concrete pour.
Finally, we set up and got ready to have the concrete delivered and poured.
Many yards of concrete were poured for the floor.
The concrete was perfectly screeded right up to the door.
The walls were sanded in preparation for a coat of finish which would help preserve them.
Br. William had also installed a beautiful tile floor on top of the concrete.
The results of the hard work of so many are stunningly beautiful. The Peace Chapel is not grand in proportion or opulent in appointments
by any means,
but the love and dedication that went into it is priceless. In many ways, our tiny chapel is in keeping with the popular tiny house movement which
emphasizes the practical economy of space, and resources, and the efficiency of recycling.
Some of the lumber used to finish the inside was donated by a thoughtful family. Their old antique barn had fallen down the year before
and they told us that it was a comfort to know that the barn which they had loved had pieces of it preserved in a "Peace Chapel". A happy thought indeed!
Eight pews were donated to us from a church that had decided to upgrade their seating to modern folding chairs which allowed them
better use of their limited space. We were touched and grateful!
The pews were set up to face across from each other, as in the traditional manner of Friends (Quakers).
Arise, for it is your task,
and we are with you;
be strong and do it.
- Ezra 10:4