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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.
Photo Triptych of Possibilities in Cairo
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Amidst the massive amount of voices tweeting and retweeting happenings on the ground in Egypt, Nevine Zaki’s photo above serendipitously found its way into my Twitter stream with the caption:

"A pic I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers #jan25."

During the wee hours of this morning, I find myself deeply moved by her new-found love for Egypt as a woman living and working in Cairo:

"The most beautiful thing about #Jan25 is that we all suddenly discovered an incredible love for #Egypt that we never knew was still in us
Living here presented always presented a struggle for us in 1 way or another, but since #jan25, we all suddenly felt alive again.”

With the image below, she writes, “Can it get more peaceful than this?”

But, surprisingly to me, it’s the idea behind the following photo that strikes me as most decent, most civil, most caring, most mundane: residents of Cairo showing their goodness by cleaning up what must be an incredible amount of refuse during the chaos: “These trash bags are all over the city, its [sic] from the citizens who cleaned the streets.”

All photos by Nevine Zaki.
Photo Triptych of Possibilities in Cairo
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Amidst the massive amount of voices tweeting and retweeting happenings on the ground in Egypt, Nevine Zaki’s photo above serendipitously found its way into my Twitter stream with the caption:

"A pic I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers #jan25."

During the wee hours of this morning, I find myself deeply moved by her new-found love for Egypt as a woman living and working in Cairo:

"The most beautiful thing about #Jan25 is that we all suddenly discovered an incredible love for #Egypt that we never knew was still in us
Living here presented always presented a struggle for us in 1 way or another, but since #jan25, we all suddenly felt alive again.”

With the image below, she writes, “Can it get more peaceful than this?”

But, surprisingly to me, it’s the idea behind the following photo that strikes me as most decent, most civil, most caring, most mundane: residents of Cairo showing their goodness by cleaning up what must be an incredible amount of refuse during the chaos: “These trash bags are all over the city, its [sic] from the citizens who cleaned the streets.”

All photos by Nevine Zaki.

Photo Triptych of Possibilities in Cairo

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Amidst the massive amount of voices tweeting and retweeting happenings on the ground in Egypt, Nevine Zaki’s photo above serendipitously found its way into my Twitter stream with the caption:

"A pic I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers #jan25."

During the wee hours of this morning, I find myself deeply moved by her new-found love for Egypt as a woman living and working in Cairo:

"The most beautiful thing about #Jan25 is that we all suddenly discovered an incredible love for #Egypt that we never knew was still in us

Living here presented always presented a struggle for us in 1 way or another, but since #jan25, we all suddenly felt alive again.”

With the image below, she writes, “Can it get more peaceful than this?”

Prayers in Tahrir Square

But, surprisingly to me, it’s the idea behind the following photo that strikes me as most decent, most civil, most caring, most mundane: residents of Cairo showing their goodness by cleaning up what must be an incredible amount of refuse during the chaos: “These trash bags are all over the city, its [sic] from the citizens who cleaned the streets.”

Taking Care of Cairo

All photos by Nevine Zaki.

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Repossessing Virtue: Joan Chittister on Christmas

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by Krista Tippett, host

I spoke with Joan Chittister this week. She’s been thinking and writing about Christmas, the prism through which economic crisis is coming home uncomfortably to many of us right now. It is a wonderful, eloquent 15 minutes of her energetic wisdom — highly recommended listening. The gold, frankincense, and myrrh of the kingly biblical gift-givers, she’s learned, are not displays of wealth but of blessings of character — generosity, serenity, and spirit.

Such states of being are counterintuitive, perhaps, at this moment in time. But perhaps they are precisely the qualities that can help us emerge with our humanity intact and enriched. I wish them for myself, and for all of us, in this season.

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Repossessing Virtue: Shane Claiborne on Opportunity for Renewed Community
» download (mp3, 14:10)
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

In the young Evangelical world, Shane Claiborne is a rock star. And this isn’t hyperbole; I witnessed it first-hand at last year’s National Pastor’s Convention in San Diego. After he spoke on a panel hosted by Krista and another solo lecture, throngs of people surrounded him asking for his autograph or seeking counsel. He’s infusing a new generation of Christians with hope and a sense of social service. It’s this enthusiasm and his way of living in a monastic community that compelled us to ask for his perspective on the current economic crisis.

He looks to the words of Jesus, describing them as fresh and an invitation, an opportunity, to hear them anew during these turbulent times. He looks to the model of early Christians, to Gandhi, to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to the nobility of the poor. In all of these cases, it’s community, he says, that perseveres no matter the economic state of society. After you listen, please leave us a comment about what you think.

We’ll keep releasing mp3s of our interviews via this blog, our podcast, and now on a Web site for Repossessing Virtue. And, please share your ideas about how this downturn has affected you in terms of personal conscience and values?

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Hanukkah and a Colbert Christmas
Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer

Coinciding with our Hanukkah program is this tasty video snack via Stephen Colbert’s A Colbert Christmas special. In our program on Hanukkah with book designer Scott-Martin Kosofsky, he talks a bit about the perceived “competition” between Hanukkah and Christmas. A little tongue-in-cheek humor here with Stewart and Colbert to reflect that, with Stephen experiencing a bit of Christmas humbug…

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A Soldier to His General
Eboo Patel, Guest Contributor

You might be surprised by what our nation’s most famous Evangelical Christian has to say about Muslims.

I first met Rick Warren at the Aspen Ideas Festival a few years ago, where he was doing a talk on leadership. Somebody in the audience asked him — with no lack of scorn — if he thought everyone was going to heaven. That’s when I realized how much of a risk Warren had taken by coming to Aspen — a town of people with a generally condescending attitude towards Warren’s brand of Evangelical megachurch Christianity.

I asked him about why he chose to come to a place where much of the audience was suspicious of him because of the title “Pastor.” He smiled and said that he liked all kinds of people, including folks with a bias against religion, but he was looking forward to getting on a plane and heading to Rwanda the next day, where he had taken on the massive project of helping a country recover from genocide. “It was faith that got them through, and it’s faith that keeps them going,” he told me.

I was equally struck by the pragmatic and profound way Warren answered the man’s question. He basically said that he didn’t come to Aspen to disagree with people about heaven, but to find common ground about working together on earth — and in his recent travels across the developing world, he had seen enough suffering to make anyone with an impulse to serve put aside their differences and develop practical partnerships that actually helped people.

I caught up with Pastor Rick at another bastion of folks suspicious of faith (I spend a lot of time in those places!) — the Clinton Global Initiative. This time, he was even more forceful about the need to focus our efforts on improving earth instead of arguing about heaven. When he was asked how “the church” could play a role in ending poverty, he responded by saying that the armies of compassion included people of all faiths.

I took him aside after his panel presentation and talked to him about the religious diversity he expressed respect for on stage.

As for how this Muslim views that Christian, here’s what I have to say: We might have different ideas of heaven, but I would happily play soldier to his general in an interfaith army of compassion solving the problems of earth.

Eboo Patel appeared on SOF as a guest in "Religious Passion, Pluralism, and the Young." He’s also the founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core, a contributor to the Washington Post’s "On Faith" blog, and author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.

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Rick Warren and the Presidency

Krista Tippett, Host

I’ve been fuming a bit this week over the way the usual constellation of journalists, pundits, and commentators have analyzed this past Saturday’s Civil Forum on the Presidency, hosted by Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church in southern California. I watched the forum with great interest and found it a useful contribution to our evolving sense of who Barack Obama and John McCain are, what they believe in, how they explain and present themselves.

82383336I won’t focus here on my personal impression of how the candidates performed. I will say that I found much to admire in the way the evening was laid out. Interviewing them separately and asking each of them roughly the same set of questions provided a remarkable display of how different they really are. While some of Warren’s questions were predictable, I thought that many of them were very good, and different enough from the usual network or public broadcasting fare that they elicited a few answers we hadn’t heard before.

For example, Warren asked each of them, in the context of tax reform, to “define rich.” At another point he noted that what is often called “flip flopping” may be a sign of wisdom — changing one’s mind can be a result of personal strength and growth. Such common sense questions and statements have been lamentably rare in all the debates hosted by professional journalists in this long campaign season up to now.

And yet the edition of the Sunday New York Times that landed on my doorstep the next morning did not even report on this first post-primary encounter of the two candidates on the same stage. I’ve heard and read one parody after the other online, in print, and on the air, at least in my home territory of public radio. When these news gatherers have seen fit to mention the Saddleback event, they’ve analyzed it in terms of what it says about the changing Evangelical scene. The same kinds of journalists who are happy to earnestly take the temperature of “the man on the street” have gleefully made fun of the demeanor and words of Saddleback members who attended the event Saturday night and church the next morning. It’s been a field day for pat generalizations about Evangelicals that nearly amount to caricature - sometimes verging on bigotry - that might be nixed by editors if it were about people of different ethnicity or race.

Obviously I have strong feelings about this. Did any of you watch the event? What do you think?

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Effective Campaigning or Fearmongering?
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

Colleen sent around this Wall Street Journal column examining one of Sen. McCain’s latest ads titled “The One.” Waldman does a good job of breaking down the methodology and ideas behind the campaign’s tactical approach. He also questions whether lightheartedly toying with a concept such as the antichrist, even meant in good humor, is an appropriate course of action for McCain’s campaign.

If the McCain campaign’s strategy is to solidify its base of support among Evangelical Christian voters in any way possible, they just may be paying attention to the polls. An August 11 report from The Barna Group states it more explicitly:

Among the 19 faith segments that The Barna Group tracks, evangelicals were the only segment to throw its support to Sen. McCain. Among the larger faith niches to support Sen. Obama are non-evangelical born again Christians (43% to 31%); notional Christians (44% to 28%); people aligned with faiths other than Christianity (56% to 24%); atheists and agnostics (55% to 17%); Catholics (39% vs. 29%); and Protestants (43% to 34%). In fact, if the current preferences stand pat, this would mark the first time in more than two decades that the born again vote has swung toward the Democratic candidate.

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Bach’s Bible
Colleen Scheck, Producer

I was a history major, and I love learning history through its physical artifacts. Last summer I visited Gettysburg for the first time. While I was brought to tears standing on its hallowed battlefields, I was also riveted by the stories behind the many Civil War relics there — stories told through well-researched exhibits, and then extended to mini-dramas in my own imagination.

So I was intrigued when I received an e-mail that the personal Bible of Johann Sebastian Bach (a commentary Bible) was going to be on display at a local choral concert. We’ve received suggestions to do a program on Bach and his personal faith — an item on our very big, very long list of show ideas. For now, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see Bach’s Bible up close, hear about its history, and learn what it reveals about his faith.

Dr. Thomas Rossin kindly gave me the opportunity to photograph the Bible and talk to him about it. Rossin did his doctoral work on translating the handwritten notes in Bach’s Bible and tracing its history. He’s the founder and conductor of Exultate Choir and Chamber Orchestra, and he was allowed to take two of the Bible’s three volumes on tour with him to display during Exultate’s recent performances of Bach’s Mass in B Minor (never will all three volumes travel at the same time). He describes how Bach’s Bible has 350 entrances that give evidence to Bach as a person of faith (II Chronicles 5:12-13 “In devotional music, God is always present with His Grace”), and his understanding of those entrances greatly impacts how he approaches performances of Bach’s works.

An aside: the story of Bach’s Bible reminded me of one of my favorite movies, The Red Violin, a fictional story about a 17th-century, hand-crafted violin that travels over three centuries. It includes a beautiful score with violin solos by Joshua Bell.

For a better quality, higher resolution version of this slideshow, view the Flash-based version on our site.

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The Gospel, as Done by Mick and Keith
Mitch Hanley, Senior Producer

Yesterday morning I was making breakfast, cleaning the kitchen, and listening to the Rolling Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet, one of my favorite of their albums (includes “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Street Fightin Man,” etc.). This record has a great rendition of the story of the prodigal son, a biblical parable with a message that I have never appreciated, until yesterday.

I have always felt that there should be consequences for the younger son having left, blown all his money, and then comes back to be received into the fold of his family. And what about the elder son who remained there, steadfast and dedicated, his inheritance intact? What message does he receive, other than, ‘You might as well go off and blow your wad, too, because it doesn’t really matter’? Well, OK, so this really isn’t the message.

And yesterday it seems as though I had a eureka moment, long after most of you, I suppose. So, life isn’t fair, right? We all know that; we’ve seen it every day in the news where there are injustices and sometimes no consequences. But for a reader of the Bible, does one wish that God’s love be merely fair with consequences for bad decisions? I would think not. My guess is that we want it both ways: we want justice here on earth and for God’s love to be unconditional. What is wrong with that? But the story is not trying to reflect how it is here on earth, and only how God’s love is — unreasonable, irrational, and that is the beauty of it.

So what are the benefits of remaining on the farm? Or, in another way, what are the benefits of leading a life within the fold of God’s love? I would guess there are many different answers to this question, depending on whom you ask.

I also have to think, ‘What if the younger son went off, blew all his money, and became Buddhist?’ Would he still be “dead” to his father?

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Capturing a Conversation in an Image Trent Gilliss, Online Editor  One of the most time-consuming and rewarding parts of my job is sifting through hundreds, if not thousands, of images — usually photographs — for use on the Web site and in the e-mail newsletter for each week’s show. I attempt to bring another layer of meaning and understanding to the broadcast/podcast, and, when I’m on my game, a moment of transcendent elegance and beauty.  Much like the music chosen in our program, each image to me is a unique content element with its own story, even if it’s not clearly defined. One photo may just catch the eye enough for you to read on; another may make you crinkle your nose a bit and wonder why did they choose that one.  I relish ambiguity and subtlety. I prefer photographs that cause the viewer to ask more questions than offer answers. I prefer to honor the viewers intellect and curiosity rather than simply report the story. For SOF, I prefer human images to inanimate objects.  For this week’s program "Inside Mormon Faith" I struggled to create a group of images to choose from. Of course, there were loads of photographs of LDS temples from all points on the globe — some absolutely haunting and dramatic:  (photo: Russell Mondy)  And some ethereal and expressive (taken with a toy camera):  (photo: William “formica”/Flickr)  When I was looking for more human, pedestrian moments, I saw photos by a reporter from the Sunday Times of London (don’t you just adore the guy covering his face) of Mitt campaigning :  (photo: Tony Allen-Mills)  Oh, yes, a rock band pretending to be Mormons:  (photo: BLKHRTMDR/Flickr)  …and young men singing Christmas carols and speaking to non-Mormons:  (photo: Michael Ignatov)  (photo: Brian “hoveringdog”/Flickr)  But, in the end, the decision came down to two images, with this one losing out by a hair. What I appreciated about it was the repeating patterns of the brick, the interaction of LDS members in different ways in a very pedestrian manner — waiting at a bus stop.  (photo: Simon Knott)  I ended up going with the image leading this post because of one thing. The young man was looking into the camera without posing but was in the background surrounded by other passersby. It had a greater depth I couldn’t ignore.  What would you have gone with? Should I have been looking in different places?
Capturing a Conversation in an Image Trent Gilliss, Online Editor  One of the most time-consuming and rewarding parts of my job is sifting through hundreds, if not thousands, of images — usually photographs — for use on the Web site and in the e-mail newsletter for each week’s show. I attempt to bring another layer of meaning and understanding to the broadcast/podcast, and, when I’m on my game, a moment of transcendent elegance and beauty.  Much like the music chosen in our program, each image to me is a unique content element with its own story, even if it’s not clearly defined. One photo may just catch the eye enough for you to read on; another may make you crinkle your nose a bit and wonder why did they choose that one.  I relish ambiguity and subtlety. I prefer photographs that cause the viewer to ask more questions than offer answers. I prefer to honor the viewers intellect and curiosity rather than simply report the story. For SOF, I prefer human images to inanimate objects.  For this week’s program "Inside Mormon Faith" I struggled to create a group of images to choose from. Of course, there were loads of photographs of LDS temples from all points on the globe — some absolutely haunting and dramatic:  (photo: Russell Mondy)  And some ethereal and expressive (taken with a toy camera):  (photo: William “formica”/Flickr)  When I was looking for more human, pedestrian moments, I saw photos by a reporter from the Sunday Times of London (don’t you just adore the guy covering his face) of Mitt campaigning :  (photo: Tony Allen-Mills)  Oh, yes, a rock band pretending to be Mormons:  (photo: BLKHRTMDR/Flickr)  …and young men singing Christmas carols and speaking to non-Mormons:  (photo: Michael Ignatov)  (photo: Brian “hoveringdog”/Flickr)  But, in the end, the decision came down to two images, with this one losing out by a hair. What I appreciated about it was the repeating patterns of the brick, the interaction of LDS members in different ways in a very pedestrian manner — waiting at a bus stop.  (photo: Simon Knott)  I ended up going with the image leading this post because of one thing. The young man was looking into the camera without posing but was in the background surrounded by other passersby. It had a greater depth I couldn’t ignore.  What would you have gone with? Should I have been looking in different places?

Capturing a Conversation in an Image
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

One of the most time-consuming and rewarding parts of my job is sifting through hundreds, if not thousands, of images — usually photographs — for use on the Web site and in the e-mail newsletter for each week’s show. I attempt to bring another layer of meaning and understanding to the broadcast/podcast, and, when I’m on my game, a moment of transcendent elegance and beauty.

Much like the music chosen in our program, each image to me is a unique content element with its own story, even if it’s not clearly defined. One photo may just catch the eye enough for you to read on; another may make you crinkle your nose a bit and wonder why did they choose that one.

I relish ambiguity and subtlety. I prefer photographs that cause the viewer to ask more questions than offer answers. I prefer to honor the viewers intellect and curiosity rather than simply report the story. For SOF, I prefer human images to inanimate objects.

For this week’s program "Inside Mormon Faith" I struggled to create a group of images to choose from. Of course, there were loads of photographs of LDS temples from all points on the globe — some absolutely haunting and dramatic:
(photo: Russell Mondy)

And some ethereal and expressive (taken with a toy camera):
(photo: William “formica”/Flickr)

When I was looking for more human, pedestrian moments, I saw photos by a reporter from the Sunday Times of London (don’t you just adore the guy covering his face) of Mitt campaigning :
(photo: Tony Allen-Mills)

Oh, yes, a rock band pretending to be Mormons:
(photo: BLKHRTMDR/Flickr)

…and young men singing Christmas carols and speaking to non-Mormons:

(photo: Michael Ignatov)


(photo: Brian “hoveringdog”/Flickr)

But, in the end, the decision came down to two images, with this one losing out by a hair. What I appreciated about it was the repeating patterns of the brick, the interaction of LDS members in different ways in a very pedestrian manner — waiting at a bus stop.
(photo: Simon Knott)

I ended up going with the image leading this post because of one thing. The young man was looking into the camera without posing but was in the background surrounded by other passersby. It had a greater depth I couldn’t ignore.

What would you have gone with? Should I have been looking in different places?

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A List Apart

Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

The List Universe assembles all types of “top 15” lists. Well, they’ve started a series on religious and atheist thinkers. I couldn’t help note the contrast in quotes from the great 13th-century philosopher Thomas Aquinas:

"Wonder is the desire for knowledge."

and one of America’s great 20th-century writers, Ernest Hemingway:

"All thinking men are atheists."
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Welcome to Alabama

Mitch Hanley, Senior Producer

We arrived in Greensboro on Tuesday afternoon and headed straight up to Antioch Baptist Church (see image below) to see if there was any information on services during the week. We were hoping to gather sound of the church’s congregation, perhaps speaking to members who had seen the previous incarnation. Cruising down the 1.5 lane highway at a healthy speed, we eyed this tiny sign pointing down a gravel road (driveway) “Antioch Baptist Church.” The grass between the tire tracks was quite tall, giving me the impression that this church might not get used at all. As we walked up to the structure we knew immediately that this was a Rural Studio project, it was like no other church in the area (except for the other RS chapels).

Alongside the church is an elevated graveyard with headstones dating back to the early 1800’s. The juxtaposition of these old tombs looking upon the modern chapel below was striking, as was the fact that the only windows along the long walls of the church were the narrow strip which looked directly out at the graves.

As we walked along the grounds, which were surrounded by thick forests of pines, you could hear an old hound dog howling in the distance interspersed with long stretches of eerie silence. This combination seemed to say, Welcome to rural Alabama!

We left Antioch to head back to Greensboro and again, at highway speed this dog seemed to come out of nowhere. At least, it seemed like a dog, minus one ear. This German Shepherd was standing next to the side of the road waiting for us to pass, standing alert with its one good ear. Sorry, it was just too strange for us to want to get out and snap a photo.

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Establishing Roots to the PastTrent Gilliss, Online EditorThe foundation has been laid and now the heavy lifting begins for second-year students at the Rural Studio. They completely dismantled St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (circa 1854) last year and cataloged all its elements — from mortise & tenon beams to cut nails. Then, they loaded up the truck and relocated the structure near its original location in Cahawba, the first capital of Alabama.The effort is painstaking, but history teaches lessons. And Jason Coomes, the instructor for this project, says it awakens the eyes of his young students and town citizens alike. The quality of craftsmanship and ingenuity of construction contributed to its longevity.Beams used for floor joists weren’t nailed to the foundation. Taboo nowadays perhaps, but a feature that allowed the building to move enough so that it didn’t collapse under stress and strain. Now that they’re assembling the salvaged floor, they’ll date-stamp the contemporary substitutions to provide a legacy for the next generation trying to figure out how the church was built and rebuilt.In so doing, they preserve our cultural legacy, teach the next generation of architects what it means to design buildings that last, salvage wood that most likely would have deteriorated or been scrapped, and sustain the geography of place that was once washed away by the floodplain of the Cahawba River. This seems like sensible sustainability, one that sates the curiosity of generations to come.
Establishing Roots to the PastTrent Gilliss, Online EditorThe foundation has been laid and now the heavy lifting begins for second-year students at the Rural Studio. They completely dismantled St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (circa 1854) last year and cataloged all its elements — from mortise & tenon beams to cut nails. Then, they loaded up the truck and relocated the structure near its original location in Cahawba, the first capital of Alabama.The effort is painstaking, but history teaches lessons. And Jason Coomes, the instructor for this project, says it awakens the eyes of his young students and town citizens alike. The quality of craftsmanship and ingenuity of construction contributed to its longevity.Beams used for floor joists weren’t nailed to the foundation. Taboo nowadays perhaps, but a feature that allowed the building to move enough so that it didn’t collapse under stress and strain. Now that they’re assembling the salvaged floor, they’ll date-stamp the contemporary substitutions to provide a legacy for the next generation trying to figure out how the church was built and rebuilt.In so doing, they preserve our cultural legacy, teach the next generation of architects what it means to design buildings that last, salvage wood that most likely would have deteriorated or been scrapped, and sustain the geography of place that was once washed away by the floodplain of the Cahawba River. This seems like sensible sustainability, one that sates the curiosity of generations to come.
Establishing Roots to the PastTrent Gilliss, Online EditorThe foundation has been laid and now the heavy lifting begins for second-year students at the Rural Studio. They completely dismantled St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (circa 1854) last year and cataloged all its elements — from mortise & tenon beams to cut nails. Then, they loaded up the truck and relocated the structure near its original location in Cahawba, the first capital of Alabama.The effort is painstaking, but history teaches lessons. And Jason Coomes, the instructor for this project, says it awakens the eyes of his young students and town citizens alike. The quality of craftsmanship and ingenuity of construction contributed to its longevity.Beams used for floor joists weren’t nailed to the foundation. Taboo nowadays perhaps, but a feature that allowed the building to move enough so that it didn’t collapse under stress and strain. Now that they’re assembling the salvaged floor, they’ll date-stamp the contemporary substitutions to provide a legacy for the next generation trying to figure out how the church was built and rebuilt.In so doing, they preserve our cultural legacy, teach the next generation of architects what it means to design buildings that last, salvage wood that most likely would have deteriorated or been scrapped, and sustain the geography of place that was once washed away by the floodplain of the Cahawba River. This seems like sensible sustainability, one that sates the curiosity of generations to come.

Establishing Roots to the Past
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

The foundation has been laid and now the heavy lifting begins for second-year students at the Rural Studio. They completely dismantled St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (circa 1854) last year and cataloged all its elements — from mortise & tenon beams to cut nails. Then, they loaded up the truck and relocated the structure near its original location in Cahawba, the first capital of Alabama.

The effort is painstaking, but history teaches lessons. And Jason Coomes, the instructor for this project, says it awakens the eyes of his young students and town citizens alike. The quality of craftsmanship and ingenuity of construction contributed to its longevity.

Beams used for floor joists weren’t nailed to the foundation. Taboo nowadays perhaps, but a feature that allowed the building to move enough so that it didn’t collapse under stress and strain. Now that they’re assembling the salvaged floor, they’ll date-stamp the contemporary substitutions to provide a legacy for the next generation trying to figure out how the church was built and rebuilt.

In so doing, they preserve our cultural legacy, teach the next generation of architects what it means to design buildings that last, salvage wood that most likely would have deteriorated or been scrapped, and sustain the geography of place that was once washed away by the floodplain of the Cahawba River. This seems like sensible sustainability, one that sates the curiosity of generations to come.

Comments