Sunday, October 2, 2011

Death of a tabernacle

As announced yesterday, the Provo Tabernacle is no more. The outside walls will be restored, but the interior, the seating, the gallery, the choir seats and organ will never see the light of day again.

This edifice burned down last December. See story here.

The Church has decided to turn it into a temple. Understandably, the Church is not in the business of rebuilding community centers for secular benefit. However, failing to restore it to its original purpose makes for a very sad loss in that this building has stood for over 120 years as part of the community not only in terms of its spiritual usage, but it has, just as the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, served a local community's other needs. In Provo's case, this has meant hosting concerts (including an appearance by none other than Sergei Rachmaninoff) and community musical programs, school commencement exercises, university student piano, organ and other recitals, and it has served as home now and then to organizations such as the now defunct Utah Valley Choral Society. It has seen many performances of Handel's Messiah.

From a more conventional viewpoint, it long served as the site for stake conferences of various local stakes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And it served the Roman Catholic community at least once or twice for Christmas Eve mass.

One of the more delightful aspects of this beautiful old building was that it hosted ecclesiastical meetings in a comfortable context and secular events in a cozy, inviting atmosphere appreciated by many Utah Valley residents be they Mormon or not.

And, there is really nothing in terms of a venue that comes close to replacing it.

On the plus side, most if not all of the block immediately south will include considerable green space that the City is hoping will attract people, and therefore shoppers, to central Provo which has for decades defied all efforts at reinvigoration.

Over the years, many Utah communities have learned the lesson that their tabernacles are similarly doomed as they no longer fit a growing Church's agenda or purposes. One by one, these historic structures have either fallen to the wrecking ball or, as in the case of Vernal and Provo, been converted to other purposes, temples in these two cases, a museum in another. Sadly, it's a rich legacy we're losing.

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