Altering altars: towards an upgrade

Holy Redeemer church

Holy Redeemer, Andrews, NC

In this back region of the back ridges of very far Western North Carolina, in what I am guessing is the smallest Catholic population sized parish in North America, we have two church buildings, Holy Redeemer in Andrews and Prince of Peace in Robbinsville. Both have what I would call temporary altars, for neither are immovable and neither are crafted with anything that might be termed to be special in any way. However, one does have a granite rock design made from the leftover chimney rocks.

robbinsville church

Prince of Peace, Robbinsville, NC

Having said that, much work went into the altars to get them to be a decent size and keep them that way. Both are fairly tall and fairly expansive, a rarity in these days of chopping block altars that can even be symmetrically placed off kilter to match a lectern both in place and size. In the case of Robbinsville, the parishioners physically stopped a priest of the past from cutting the altar down to the size of a microwave. I love this parish. But some work does need to be done on the altars.

Holy Redeemer: This altar can be fairly tippy, like a teeter-totter if the whatchamacallits are placed below the lower thingamabob, with the top being made from an over-sized closet door guerrilla-taped to the top. There is no altar stone that I know about.

altar stone 1

Prince of Peace: While this altar isn’t so much tippy, having four legs instead of one as it does, I’m guessing that it’s not even made out of wood, but rather sawdust board with an oak veneer so common back in the day. The altar stone was desecrated, perhaps even before it was placed in the altar to begin with, and perhaps for good reason, that is, a transferal of the relics to a high altar whose relics were in the altar that had no separate altar stone as it was itself made out of stone. And then this altar stone was simply designated for this tiny mission station church regardless of the lack of relics. This was also very possible to some attitudes prevalent back in the day. The tape was long broken when I looked at it, with the slate cap-rock just laying there…

altar stone 2

What I’m thinking about is trying to replace the altars altogether with new bases for a couple of slabs of marble for the tops, hopefully with those donated by a marble company down in Georgia which owns a now defunct marble quarry in this parish (in the town of marble, named after this natural resource of ours). That weight, however, would cost us dearly as the floors in both churches would have to be reinforced. They buildings were not built for heavy altars.

Alternatively, and perhaps the better choice, would be to find appropriate altars in churches that are slated to be closed or have been closed but not yet destroyed. Unfortunately, these could not be massive high altars, as you can pretty much touch the ceilings of both churches by just lifting up your hand next to the altar. However, even a low-flying ad orientem altar with gradines and a tabernacle (not just a tabernacle “shelf”), but without a reredos would work well. We have very little room to work with. If you see something, say: “Andrews and Robbinsville”!


Filed under Liturgy

4 responses to “Altering altars: towards an upgrade

  1. James Anderson

    Hi Fr. George, one solution might be a stone counter top. It wouldn’t be as heavy as a regular marble altar and with the proper wooden base you could spread out the weight over a larger area thereby eliminating, or reducing the extent of floor reinforcing. There are relatively cheap steel floor jacks that could be used to support the floor joists under the altar if needed.

  2. Nan

    Doesn’t the church have a website for sale of church goods from closed parishes? Can you call dioceses that Ave had closings and mergers and ask if they have anything? You’re in mission territory so they should be happy to help.

  3. Monica Harris

    Yes, a Fynders Keepers type place in SE? But maybe someone is very skilled at making one in your diocese, or parish.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.