Sunday, July 17, 2011

Safety Last

For about a month, I have noticed that the down light on one of the lanterns at the crossing was not functioning. Today, I saw that one of the bulbs in the body of the same lantern was not working either. This fixture is especially important, as it is one of two that illuminate the altar, where the most important action of a Eucharist service takes place. How long, I had been thinking, was it going to take to change a couple of light bulbs?

Before church this morning, I happened to see Vladimir in the kitchen. He is usually the person to see to take care of minor maintenance issues, so I approached him and explained the problem, assuming that he was unaware of it. My assumption was wrong. What he told me took a little time to sink in, partly because what he was saying was hard to believe, though, admittedly, Vlad’s Russian accent didn’t help.

Here is Vlad’s story: He knew about the down light and had determined that the problem was not that the bulb was burned out or that no replacement was at hand. Instead, there apparently was a wiring problem. At this point, I asked if we had calledSafety First—Not! an electrician. He explained that he had brought this to the attention of the junior warden, Carol Delfino, and Carol was looking for a source of funds to pay an electrician. I failed to ask how long this search had been ongoing.

At this point, I was livid. Were we going to risk burning down the building because we could not afford to engage an electrician? (A few years ago, a lantern in the chancel sparked in the middle of a service and went dark. It had to be rewired, and we were told that the fault was a fire hazard.) Has anyone considered turning off the altar lanterns until we identify the source of the problem? Have we inaugurated a moratorium on maintenance in order to expand the punch list for the capital campaign? Is this worth risking a fire? Perhaps the money contributed to the Salary Restoration Fund should have been given instead to the Property Fund.

I no longer feel safe in the church.

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