This week the world watched as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, caught fire. Part of her centuries-old structure was destroyed, and her grand spire burned away.
Historian Yvonne Seale writes at vox.com:
Notre Dame de Paris was never the preferred cathedral of kings. Notre Dame was instead the cathedral of ordinary Parisians. Since the Middle Ages, it’s been the backdrop against which the city’s inhabitants have lived their lives. The building, which stands on a small island in the Seine River, was a constant amid the upheaval of the French Revolution and the terrors of the Nazi occupation. As one 14th century scholar wrote, the cathedral was “like the sun among stars.”
There’s been a church on the site now occupied by Notre Dame since at least the sixth century. In 1163, Bishop Maurice de Sully launched an ambitious project to build a new cathedral for the city’s growing population. For centuries, the cathedral has been a tourist draw, a meeting spot, a place of refuge in times of crisis. It fostered both the beginnings of the University of Paris and, quite literally, the city’s abandoned children in the orphan home it ran.
“It’s just a building,” some say. “It can be rebuilt.” This is true. However, people bond with places. And the longer a building exists, the more memories are housed there and in the people who make it part of their lives. The cathedral has stood for centuries as a symbol of beauty, help, and refuge. Sometimes a building matters.
ROWAN is building a Hall of Hope. Why build a hall? Ten years ago ROWAN began under the Ugandan trees. Most organizations start up and fairly quickly look for a building. Widows and orphans began gathering with ROWAN staff under the trees, in harsh weather, rain or shine, with no thoughts of a building. But God began to bring more women and children to ROWAN and ten years later the family is overflowing! The Hall of Hope will have two large classrooms for tutoring, literacy, Bible studies, tailoring, jewelry-making, and much more. There will be additional office space; most of us know the value of a desk or table to work from. What might be most exciting though is that the Hall holds 600 people and will be able to house the entire ROWAN family, at once. The ROWAN family has never had a place where they can all gather together. In the past, it was difficult to even get people to come on the property, as the word AIDS is in our name. The shame and stigma are high. But God lovingly brought dignity to those who came, and more came, and it became clear it was time to give them a place, a beautiful building, their “sun among stars”. They can look at their Hall of Hope now and think, “WOW, that is for me.” People will pass by and see who this beauty is for.
We know that Notre Dame began as a place for ordinary Parisians to worship God. “If anyone is worth a beautiful building, let it be the widows and orphans. ROWAN is their family and the Hall is our family room.”— Co-founder Kelsey Hargadine
The Hall of Hope will be dedicated on May 26, 2019.