Worshiping with Hammer and Nails
by Pastor George Van Alstine

Altadena Baptist Church is in the middle of one of its largest building projects in decades. We are progressing, slowly but surely, toward the installation of a lift to carry people between the main floor and the basement, as well as the redesign of the restrooms to accommodate people with disabilities. We are nearing the inspection of the framing, plumbing and electrical wiring, which will then free us to install sheetrock and begin the furnishing, painting and other finishing touches. In the meantime, you have to be careful that you don’t stumble over lumber, tools or workers just about any day of the week.

Opening up the framing infrastructure of the church building was like exposing previous eras of the church’s history. There are scribbled notes left by carpenters and plumbers during the original 1958 construction of the building. There is also evidence of previous remodeling efforts.

One day I was standing with Project Manager Chet Kelsey and our electrician Larry Cude. We mentioned how careful and thorough electrician George Georgiades had been in 1958, when he installed the wiring, lights, switches and boxes in his own church. It was clearly a labor of love and dedication. Larry commented that he had learned his trade as George’s apprentice, and he also reminisced about attending ABC’s youth group more than forty years ago.

This led me on a nostalgia journey that might seem strange to someone who hasn’t been around construction tradesmen all their lives, as I have. I thought about how, soon after my arrival in 1972, Bud Walsworth showed off the church tower that had recently been completed under his guidance. I remembered the many improvement projects Al Shoebridge had done, the most important of which involved the lowering of the platform to bring the preacher closer to the congregation, as well as the installation of the baptistry. My mind jumped from image to image involving either Carl Seline or Ed Knode fixing stuff.

Chet Kelsey has received the mantle of all these hands-on
guys who worshiped the Lord through building this house of worship. He has blossomed as the chief enabler of the Lift Project, the glue who holds it all together. On Sunday morning he comes to ABC as Sunday School Superintendent. and makes sure the little toddlers have a teacher. Then he stays to participate in the Worship Service, helping to take the offering if an usher doesn’t show. Then on Monday morning he arrives early to begin worshiping with hammer and nails!

Another Monday-worshiper is Bill Zobrist. In spite of the fact that he has a full time job, he’s likely to show up at 8 AM to support Chet in whatever his current project is. And then there’s our plumber Dan Keithley, who first connected with us as one of the most active parents at Altadena Christian Children’s Center. His toddler son Brian, now about twenty, has worked along side of him installing the new copper water supply line.

More than thirty pages of the Old Testament are used to tell about some ancient people who were worshiping with hammer and nails. In the fifth century before Christ, God inspired Ezra, a priest, Haggai, a prophet, and Nehemiah, a construction project manager, to return from their place of captivity in Babylon to rebuild the Temple and the walls of the city of Jerusalem. You might enjoy reading the stories of their faith and perseverance in the Bible books bearing their names.

The local pagans who had occupied Palestine constantly harassed them as they did their work. Picture this:

“We labored at the work, and half of us held our spears from break of dawn until the stars came out. I [Nehemiah] also said to the people at that time, ‘Let every man and his servant pass the night inside Jerusalem, so that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.’ So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me ever took off their clothes; each kept his weapon in his right hand.” (Nehemiah 4:21-23)

Ezra later reminisced about the Temple construction:

“From that time until now it has been under construction, and it is not yet finished.” (Ezra 5:16)

As long as the church exists on earth, the worshiping with hammer and nails will never be finished!