In the year 2014, the Lord placed on my heart to pray about going back to work. Up until that year, I had been completely immersed in volunteer work, sometimes at the expense of time with my family. My husband made the statement, “If you are going to work this hard, you should at least get paid for it.”
I took this to heart and began to ask the Lord what I could do to help my family, my community, and give me a chance to see Him in whatever I committed to do. Little did I know that He was going to answer all of these prayers by October of that year, directly after finishing work on another fundraiser.
His timing is always perfect! So, on October 30, 2014, I agreed to meet my husband at the corner of Joachim and St. Francis St to tour a piece of property he had seen was for sale on a commercial on TV. I arrived a little early to the property (not usual for me). My husband had told me it was a red brick building so as I stared at the Labor Finders building, (the old Grey- hound bus station) I thought to myself “this needs to be torn down.”
When my husband called a few minutes later I voiced my thoughts. His response was “Really? Are you looking at the right building? It’s the church on the corner.” My husband is fully aware that I love the Church, so I am sure he was surprised by my comment.
My next question was “who sells a church?” As I stepped out of my car to really see this building, I felt like an ant standing at the base of a mountain. The church towered into the sky above. It cast such a shadow on the street that there was no afternoon sunlight visible anywhere on that corner.
There was a huge, beautiful rose-stained glass window staring down at me like a giant’s eye and a bell tower that stretched up to the sky with a cross above it. It took my breath away as I thought to myself, “What happened to the people who worshipped in this place?” The old finger play rhyme popped into my mind, “Here is the Church. Here is the Steeple. Open it up and find all the people.”
After fumbling with the lock and having to call a locksmith to open the glass doors that had been the replacements for what I later discovered were exquisite wooden doors, we crossed the threshold of this abandoned place of worship. There were two enormous staircases flanking marble floors that led up to “Sanctuary Upstairs.”
The first thing I noticed was the ungodly smell. The place was filthy and completely abandoned of life. As we slowly climbed the steps to enter the sanctuary, a million thoughts went through my mind, but the one that seemed to be most prevalent was, “What are we doing here?’
Then we walked into the sanctuary, and I gasped while my entire being became electric with what I call “Holy Bumps”. The afternoon sun was casting prisms of color all over the great room. There was an organ above the exquisite raised alter which sat beneath a stained-glass window with faces of four children. There were 40-foot wood ceilings with ornate buttresses flanking the north and south sides of the building. The pews were all left exactly as if the congregation just walked out in the middle of a service. Bibles and hymnals were scattered throughout.
But what made me catch my breath was the two giant windows of my Jesus on the East and West sides of the building. Here He was towering over an abandoned, filthy, empty, dusty, smelly building that was housing stuff that had been left behind; and He was towering over me.
At that moment I wanted to run out of that building as far as I could and never come back but a sweet voice entered my soul and said, “Will you care for me”? I wanted to weep. How can I do that Lord? This project is entirely too large for me and my family! But as He does, He won that argument and by Christmas of that year with the help of many my family became the stewards of what would become The Steeple.
Cleaning and renovating the building took two solid years but with the help of a brilliant architect; Nick Holmes, Rogers and Willard attentive historic builders, the downtown community, a group of high-school seniors, the mayor, and countless others, we were able to slowly bring this holy place back to life.
We invited all to walk through her new replicated wooden doors in June of 2016, and we stewarded the building as a gathering place for all types of events. Every sojourner who entered the upstairs Sanctuary came face to face with Jesus at The Steeple. Some ran away and some stayed under His gaze as sinners staring at a Savior. We stewarded The Steeple from 2014-2022 at which time we returned her to the Church to become a place of worship again.
We worked hard and sometimes late hours, but the Lord was watching over it all. I learned two great lessons from Him during those years: Be open to all no matter what they bring in the doors, and that the building is just the vehicle to get people to see Him and I am the one that has to “Be the Church”.
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. Proverbs 15:3
Clif and Ginna Inge have been married for 27 years. During those 27 years they have supported the growth and success of the Mobile Bay area in many ways including the renovation and restoration of The Steeple. They have 2 grown sons and a daughter in law.