Why we need a traditional Anglican academic library

Subdeacon Wiley Hawks buttonholed the Rector last week to ask the $64,000 question: “Why are we building a second floor office when it would be much more convenient to expand at ground level?

“And, while we are about it, rather than a library, why don’t we spend the money putting in a commercial kitchen? It would pay for itself if we rented it out.”

They were good and sensible questions. It would certainly be much more convenient for us to expand at ground level. And, possibly, a commercial kitchen, if rented out, would pay for itself.

The trouble is that Baltimore County building regulations will not permit us to expand at ground level beyond the current “footprint” of the church buildings. In practice, it means that we could add two more arches to the sanctuary, a major project that is hard to justify on the basis of present needs.

Theoretically, we could also widen the parish hall by a few feet, but this, again, would be a major construction project, involving, among other things an entirely reconfigured roof. This leaves us with only one practicable way to obtain more work-space — building upwards.

As to the matter of a commercial kitchen: The county has expressly rejected the idea, not once but twice. It was turned down the first time back in 1992 when we first applied for planning permission to build the church. All we were allowed was a cubbyhole where the vestment chest now stands with just enough room for an oven and a sink.

We next applied for permission to put in a commercial grade kitchen when we extended the parish hall. It was again rejected. All we were able to negotiate was permission to install our current “warming kitchen.”

It is, however, worth pointing out that, for a parish church, operating a commercial kitchen is almost prohibitively expensive. They are very tightly regulated. Health regulations, for example, require a licensed food service manager to be present when they are in use.

The reasons we have embarked on this project are twofold. First, the present church office is decidedly crowded with two priests, two deacons, and a treasurer all living cheek by jowl.

The new extension will provide sufficient space to accommodate the clergy, as well provide the treasurer with the small private office needed to preserve financial confidentiality.

Second, if St. Stephen’s is to continue and prosper it will need to invest in clergy education. Sadly, the mainline seminaries—caught up as they are in “social justice” issues and other fashionable political concerns—have been doing a rather less than adequate job in this regard.

The seminary graduates we have encountered have typically been woefully weak in such subjects as Holy Scripture, dogmatic theology, church history, and liturgics—in what one might imagine to be the tools of their trade.

This leaves us will little choice but to provide at the very least a “remedial education” for men applying to us for Holy Orders in the Anglican tradition. Indeed, should traditional academic standards continue to decline at the mainline seminaries, we shall have no alternative but to rely entirely on our own resources.

None of this should come as a surprise. The primary reason for the founding of this parish was the Episcopal Church’s deliberate abandonment of traditional Anglican scholarship, values, teachings, and worship practices. This cannot be done without adequately educated clergy and lay leaders.

A prerequisite for this is a theological library containing the classic works that form the backbone of Anglican doctrinal scholarship.

The Vestry has tried to approach the project as cost effectively as possible. The cost will come to some $100,000. This includes the installation of sliding doors to open the Cadwalader Room to the courtyard garden—a long cherished plan.

The Vestry believes now is the right time to build, because it is unlikely that construction costs and mortgage rates will ever be cheaper. To reduce the overall expense, the wardens and treasurer have renegotiated a substantially lower interest rate for our mortgage.

This, in practice, means that the project will not greatly increase our overheads. It will enable our modest endowment to continue growing, and the contributions to our building fund will further reduce our mortgage.

WILLIAM HAWKINS

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