Friday, March 09, 2007

Blink and You'll Miss It

Between my time as student, and later as a member of the staff, I've been at Fuller Theological Seminary for just shy of a full decade. Throughout that time, one of the fixtures here has been the Prayer Garden. It's a little stone structure with ivy growing all over it. Inside there's a running fountain and places to sit and pray in a quiet atmosphere. It's been a bit of an oasis within the middle of the city of Pasadena. It's also been a particularly special place to me for a couple of reasons: 1) the stone structure and "natural" feel remind me a bit of my time at Montreat which, being in the middle of the North Carolina mountains, is a rather different environment than Southern California, 2) that white building you see behind and to the left of the Prayer Garden is an apartment building owned by the seminary, and I used to live in the studio apartment that opened up immediately behind the garden itself, granting me instant access to the Prayer Garden for several years.

I've heard conflicting stories, but it's my understanding that the Prayer Garden itself was constructed amidst a fair bit of controversy on campus. As I hear it, the original plan was to do a full Prayer Chapel, with a spire reaching up into the sky with a cross on top. The story is that this plan was scuttled by a Pasadena city code that forbade any new structures that would obstruct the view of the Pasadena City Hall, which is only a couple of blocks away. The Prayer Garden was built as a compromise.

Apparently that city code is no longer in force, since a parking structure was built a few years ago between the seminary and the City Hall with totally blocks the City Hall from our line-of-sight (the spire would never have blocked the view so completely!). Also, Fuller has, in recent years, added a program for Worship, Theology and the Arts, the plan for which includes the construction of a new chapel building in the Prayer Garden space (also taking out that apartment building I used to live in!).

Various preparation efforts have already started for the new constructions to begin soon on that side of campus (which also include an expanded library, something the seminary has needed for ages!). So I decided that I should probably take a picture of the Prayer Garden now, while it's still there. Nothing lasts forever, but it will be a sad time when this structure is finally gone.

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