Church Acquisition Follow-Up

Me at the altar.

After I announced that Krissy and I had purchased a church, many of you had, well, questions. Today I am going to answer some of those questions, and also add some further observations about being the sort of people who now own a whole damn church.

1. To begin, yes, two days in, it continues to feel surreal that we now own a church. It’s one thing to think about it and to make the offer and jump through the various hoops required to purchase real estate these days, and it’s another to actually be handed the keys and be told “congratulations on your new purchase.” It still hasn’t entirely sunk in; I went to the church this afternoon and rattled around in it a bit just to get used to it and I was half-expecting a minister to show up and politely but firmly ask me to step away from the altar. But none did, and if one had, they would be trespassing, not me.

I’ll note that our purchase of the church was slightly precipitate — we have long-term business plans that require office and storage space (which the church provides for, amply), but our original plan was looking a couple years down the line. But when this space went on the market, it was too good for our purposes (and too well-priced) to pass up. We’ve gotten it well in advance of our intended plans for it. This is not a bad thing; it gives us more time to refurb and renovate before we use it on a regular basis. But it was one of those “move fast” opportunities, and we are fortunate we were able to move fast.

But, yeah. Us getting a church was very nearly as much of a surprise to us as it was for the rest of you. It’s very cool! We will do cool things with it! And also, wow, it’s a church and it’s ours now.

2. Some of you were curious as to what conveyed with the church, and the answer to that is: Apparently, everything. It’s not just the space. The former owners (the regional United Methodist conference) left the pews and the chairs and the chandeliers and the church bell and the organ (which used to be a pipe organ but currently is not, although we may correct that in time) and two pianos and two stoves and cups and plates and cutlery and vestments and flags and crosses and big puffy couches from the 70s and, of course, so many bibles. I literally own dozens of bibles now, y’all, along with an equal number of hymn books. One really does get the sense that the former owners were happy to let us deal with getting rid of anything we decided we don’t want. In the short term we will indeed be doing an inventory of the things we want to keep and the things we want to get rid of. On the other hand, hey, I own two pianos and an organ now, to add to my collection of musical instruments. Go me.

3. As to the question of whether the church has been deconsecrated: I have no idea whatsoever. There’s nothing in the legal documents transferring the building over to us that suggests that it has been, and honestly at this point I’m not going to trouble the Methodists to ask. I assume it was? The building stopped being in regular use a couple of years back, and the parishioners transferred to a different church a couple miles down the road. But maybe it wasn’t! We’ll know if vampires try to come into the place, I guess. On a day-to-day basis I don’t suppose it matters. It’s not our intent to use it as a church. As previously promised, we have no plans to start our own religion.

4. Vaguely related to this subject, those of you hoping we’ll do, like, a black mass, or at least something aggressively atheistic at the altar of our new church, should probably settle down a tick. Most of you know I’m not religious in any sense, but I’m not particularly aggressive about that with others, and even if I were, I have no intention of antagonizing my neighbors in this small, rural, conservative and fairly religious little town of ours, which even with this church (literally) out of commission still has eight active churches for a population of just over 1,800 people. To the extent that the building and what we do in it will be outwardly facing to the community, we want to be welcoming, and welcomed. It’s not difficult to be good neighbors.

5. For everyone asking whether I’m going to use the sanctuary area as a music studio, I’ll say the thought had occurred to me, and today as I was visiting I stood on the altar and sang to check out the acoustics, which as it happens are quite nice. However, it’s not likely I will use the sanctuary area as a music studio exclusively, since I just set up a music room in my basement, and also, I need to become far more competent in playing my instruments generally. Guess what’s high on my list of things to do in 2022?

6. Again, we’re still wrapping our heads around the fact this church is ours now — and now that we have it, it’s fun to think of all the possibilities it offers. This is definitely a work in progress, and one that will be in progress probably for a couple of years at least. If you’re wondering if I’m taking up any hobbies, well. This is it. Let’s see where it takes us.

— JS

Big Idea

The Big Idea: Don Handfield and Joshua Malkin

In today’s Big Idea, authors and filmmakers Don Handfield and Joshua Malkin reveal a simple and possibly universal truth: No matter who you are, or what you do, or how you do it, there’s always room in your life for the power of unicorns. And thus, their graphic novel, Unikorn.


Needless to say, neither of us necessarily imagined ourselves writing a book about unicorns. In fact, over the two and a half years it took to steadily, lovingly piece the project together, we found ourselves routinely pausing to ask one another: “Have we lost our minds?”

That surprise is to some extent silly. After all, we’re both lifelong fans of fantasy. Deeply entrenched nerds, all of our literary or film collaborations have revolved around magic in one way or another. (An aside, there is a scene in the book in which Maeve, our protagonist, ventures beneath the school bleachers to find the school nerds, who use the hiding spot as a safe haven to play Dungeons & Dragons. The fact that two of those characters are named Don & Josh is no coincidence…)

As fathers of young girls, we’d become steadily aware how few superhero books there are aimed at them. Each year at Comic-Con, we’d patrol the floor for gifts – finding plenty of Deadpool, Wolverine and Batman stuff for our little boys, but not much for little girls. In many ways, our initial goal was to write a book with a hero specifically for our own daughters. Both of them had loved unicorns, briefly, but grew out of the “phase” surprisingly quickly. “Unicorns are for little kids, dad.”

Why? We wondered. How could we resurrect and re-approach the legend and mythology so that it seemed fresh? How could we leap-frog past resistance to embrace the underlying magic? And that’s how we stumbled upon the first of our “Big Ideas”: what if Unicorns are real… but dwindling, and need to be hidden for their safety and protection?

We read stories of conservationists removing elephant tusks and rhino horns to protect the animals from ivory hunters and were immediately inspired. To have a unicorn hide in plain sight would, of course, require removal of its horn. This would make it blend in – but would also diminish its powers, making it more vulnerable. We dubbed these de-horned animals ‘unikorns’ and found the title for our tale.

Every good story needs a powerful antagonist and we found that inside this central idea. Legends of the power of unicorn horns are numerous and ancient. One regards how their blood can make humans younger and miraculously extend their lives. So our antagonist is a man who has been alive since the 1800s tracking and exploiting the creatures for that very selfish purpose. Our hero unravels the truth – that he will kill the animal to prolong his own life – so she tries to find the animals horn and help it escape. This forms the central conflict of the narrative.

In the middle of this creative journey, both of our families lost beloved grandparents and parents.  It was in the midst of trying to help our own kids both comprehend and process this grief in a healthy way that our plot found its purpose. Yes, this would be a book about unicorns but it would be more than that too. It would aspire to help kids and parents communicate about loss more effectively and intimately. The challenge was to do so in a way that was entertaining, not heavy handed, and that didn’t wallow in negative emotions.

Ultimately, we believe story can be a panacea for the chaos life throws at us, a way to approach the incomprehensible. We hope we have created a tale appropriate for all genders and all ages; a story not just about magic but also about the unbreakable and healing power of love.

Unikorn: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Indiebound

Read an excerpt (click on the “look” button)


A Quick Jolt of Holiday Cheer For You

From Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings:

Here’s the album page, if you want to check it out.

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