If you were to ask me what Spirit Builders means to me in one word, it would be: “community.” A group of compassionate, hard-working people with a common goal: to include anyone and everyone, making them feel welcome, accepted and comfortable. A group of people committed to rebuilding lives, by repairing buildings one nail, board, and brick at a time.
They are a group that accepts you as you are, and strive to work with you very patiently to teach you carpentry/building/painting skills that you didn’t realize you were even capable of doing!
Wendy Owens, Spirit Builder since 2008
I used to do so much. Following in my family’s way, I used to love to do projects around the house: paint, wallpaper, use power tools to fix things or decorate. I’d been doing these things since I was a child. But then my life changed drastically. At age 52, with two grown children I suffered a major stroke. There were several consequences of this stroke, the reason for which has never been conclusively determined. I know it was God speaking to me. While in rehab I experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit who helped me through the many months of re-learning how to dress, shower and perform all the activities of daily living without the use of my left leg or arm. Luckily I am right handed. Jesse Lee then enfolded me in love. After three years, I could drive again, and a Sleep At Home ASP trip (October, 2006) to work on our Carriage House was just what the doctor ordered for me. I showed up thinking I could work on the painting team. They brought me newly glazed windows and put them on sawhorses so I painted away. Someone helped me up on a step to prime a window opening. I also helped in the kitchen, mixing up a batch of corn bread or arranging luncheon meat on a platter. I made some great friends that weekend and over ensuing weeks as we met to paint miles of trim, for the Carriage House and then for the Chapel. At our closing evening activity for the first weekend, I just had to tell everyone how I had been feeling that I couldn’t do very much, but that with everyone’s help, I now felt like I could do a whole lot. I might have only one hand to give, but I’d gladly give it for my church.
Jean McGrath, Spirit Builder since 2006
Dad (Roger Beal) was always a “putterer.” Growing up I remember him spending weekends in the garage at his work bench, making something, fixing something, just puttering around. When he wasn’t in the garage he was outside building a tree fort, a swing set, a shed. After retiring he had even more time to devote to the hobbies that he loved.
When Jesse Lee purchased the Carriage House a whole new venue opened up. Dad loved to putter around and share his skills there – whether it was carpentry, painting, cleaning, organizing. Not only did it give him the opportunity to help the church, but the resultant camaraderie that developed among the workers gave him a sense of true belonging.
Then dad was diagnosed as having “early Alzheimers.” In the beginning he was still able to fully function, helping out as he had.Slowly we began noticing changes – he was more forgetful and couldn’t finish a task without supervision. He had taken such pride in his work and truly enjoyed spending time with the group that we hated to see that come to an end.
I remember going in to speak to Peter Seirup and George Woodring about dad’s continued involvement at the Carriage House. My sister and I didn’t want anyone to feel as if they had to care for dad while he was there, yet we knew the benefit to dad was tremendous. With Alzheimers, so much is taken away, that we wanted dad to feel he could still contribute. Peter looked at me and said “We are not just working on a building, we’re building a church. Have your dad continue to come.” With tears in my eyes I left the Carriage House. At that point I realized just what it meant to “build a church.”
Dad is no longer able to help out the Spirit Builders with their current projects. He does however continue to be a part of the camaraderie that developed sharing a smile, a hug, a handshake.
Debbie Ahle, daughter of Roger Beal, Spirit Builder since 2006
Volunteer workers, who had previously greeted one another every Sunday morning after service, now work shoulder to shoulder…laughing together, sharing family stories, developing deep and abiding friendships. The Spirit Builders Ministry resurrects buildings and builds community.
Carole Stathis, Spirit Builder since 2006
From an e-mail to Spirit Builders: "Not sure if you remember me...or if you are the same group (pretty sure you are) who built the most amazing ramp for my patient and friend, and then when they dismantled it, helped to create the most amazing memory garden with the most perfect bench to sit and reflect....
Anyway, I also recently took care of Mrs. P and again saw your wonderful work.
I received the link for "Spirit Builders" (what a perfect name) and also info about wheelchair ramp supplies. I seem to remember a voice mail going out to the VNA that you all sometimes build ramps for those in need. I have a patient, who has 2 steps with a landing in between and has recently suffered a marked drop in mobility and is fairly wheelchair bound. His daughter takes him to most appointments and it would be difficult for her to get him out without a ramp. He is willing to pay but does not have much.
Thank you so much and your name is extra appropriate because you build spirit in the lives of those you touch. I know you touched my friend, Mrs. P and ME!
physical therapist with Ridgefield VNA
The looming potential purchase of the two derelict buildings behind the Church was one of the scariest prospects in my life. It called me to destiny. I was afraid that I would be exposed as a fake and a failure.
My career in evaluating local buildings made me the closest person that we had to a prophet on predicting the implications of going ahead with the purchase. I knew that I did not have all the answers, but somehow I thought that I should.
I knew that Fairfield County contractors would eat the Church alive with their costs and expanded scopes of work. Alternatively it seemed that it would take a full-time manager to keep control of, and pragmatism present in, the renovation process. If I volunteered for that position I would be responsible for all the schedule delays and cost overruns while my own neglected business suffered.
Enter The Spirit
In a Church Council meeting on whether to buy the buildings or not, I listened in shock as I heard myself passionately declaring that purchase and development of these buildings would provide the necessary space it a pivotal time in the Church’s growth and that it was our destiny to reach very deep to give to future generations as past generations had done for us.
At the following month’s meeting, as we became committed to buying the buildings, I once again listened in shock as I heard myself volunteering to help lead the building renovation effort.
Never go back
Years go I had heard that virtually no one who tries tithing (donating 10% of income to the Church or other charity) ever goes back to not tithing. This is because if one reaches out to God then God responds bountifully. Well. It turns out that this works with time and talent donations, too. I started devoting about 600 hours per year on these projects without any negative repercussions to other activities in my life. In fact, the positive effects on personal relationships and my relationship with God were profound.
Pieces of the Puzzle
I learned to trust the Holy Spirit to lead. I learned to be attentive to that leadership. I didn’t need to have all the answers. I learned that God gives different people different pieces of the puzzle as a way to call us into community. If we work together and worship together, then we can discover the way where paths are straight and the burden is light. I learned to seek first the Kingdom of God and all the rest will fall into place.