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Our New Social Hall Doors are Complete!

Genesis is proud to announce that the installation of the brand-new social hall doors is finally complete, including the all-new hardware which we hope everyone in our congregations will agree looks amazing!

Genesis President Jim Downward wrote and delivered an inspiring speech on the occasion of Erev Thanksgiving 2023, as Genesis launched its 50th Anniversary celebrations, in anticipation of the arrival of the new doors. Jim observed:

there are three types of doors; the doors we use to enter into our safe spaces, the doors we use to let others in, and the doors we use to sally forth into the world. The three doors of the first Genesis sanctuary, in many ways, are a metaphor for how we conduct our lives together in Genesis.

Read Jim’s comments in their entirety below. Then go marvel at the doors that face Packard Street and its passers-by, doors which renew our invitation to the world and our call to open them to a world in need of repair.

Three Doors

My name is Jim Downward and I have been a part of Genesis for a long, long time. This year, I’m your Genesis President and I want to tell you a bit of Genesis History, and most especially, I want to tell you about the Three Doors.

This room we are standing in, our Social Hall, was Genesis’ first sanctuary. Construction of this sanctuary, designed by David Osler, had just been completed in 1969 two years before my wife Judie and I arrived in Ann Arbor. Almost immediately we joined St. Clare’s. Their new sanctuary was simple but amazing. The floor was brick. Within this sanctuary, we always stayed connected to the earth. Back then, there was no kitchen, and huge windows opened the sanctuary building to the world on all four sides. But an 8-foot high wooden wall, set 20-30 feet back from the surrounding windows, created an oval inner worship space separate from the windowed greeting area. Inside this oval space was an altar on a raised brick Bema and above that altar was a pyramidal skylight. So even while separated from the world outside, we were always standing present in God’s creation.

When TBE first saw our sanctuary, they realized St. Clare’s worship space, could become their worship space. So, one of St. Clare’ parishioners, Al Montalvo, modified the sanctuary’s iron cross so that it could rotate out of sight during temple services, and TBE designed an Ark inset into the wooden wall for storing their Torah. Then together, we installed a wrought-iron Star of David alongside the wrought-iron Cross already standing outside the sanctuary, facing Packard Road.

Now back to the Three Doors. There are three types of doors; the doors we use to enter into our safe spaces, the doors we use to let others in, and the doors we use to sally forth into the world.

Our first sanctuary had three doors, and these doors, in many ways, are a metaphor for how we conduct our lives together in Genesis. Back in 1974 when Genesis was formed, all the doors looked like the door we passed through to enter our Social Hall this evening. Look at it. Each door was solid and heavy, but still we could see the outside world through the windows built into them. We were still part of the world, but we were secure. That Social Hall door through which we entered tonight was the one which, each sabbath, we would open and walk through to joyfully worship in God’s presence in our sanctuary.

The second door on the circle drive was physically just like the first, but it weathered badly and was replaced decades ago by the glass doors now facing the circle drive. This was the door that we used when we chose to bring others from the outside world into our sanctuary. And use them we did. We celebrated countless life events and offered refreshments when Genesis was a hunger walk station. Today, through that door, Back Door Food Pantry volunteers welcome a hundred or more patrons every week so that we can share the bounty of God’s creation.

But there is still that third door. The one that faces Packard Road. Thousands of cars speed by every day on Packard Road catching but brief glances of that door and the Star of David and the Cross, standing sentinel outside our building. Metaphorically speaking, the third door is the one we would choose for going out into a world that does not know or care who we are. And even as the world outside became an increasingly scary place as years went by, our Packard Road door suffered from lack of use and attention, and the wood slowly rotted out. But we have changed over time, and both our congregations now increasingly look outward. And during the past 10 years, we have done amazing things.

So today, we are announcing to the Genesis community that we are replacing our Packard Road door with one that looks almost like the original door. Finding a door that matched the custom door designed by David Osler took a bit of hard work. But one was found. And figuring out just the right size and options necessary for fitting the door to our building, took even more work and time. But finally, thanks to the tireless work of David Lewis in communicating with our custom door fabricator, we ordered the door and now hope to have it finished and installed in December. Many thanks also to the work of the 50th Anniversary Committee, especially Ann Putallaz and Ruth Petit, for the poster over there showing how the door will look.

The new door will look great, but it is not enough just to replace the physical third door. For Genesis to thrive for the next 50 years, we must remember the purpose of the Third Door in the lives of our faith communities. As partners in Genesis, even though the world outside may be uncaring, unwelcoming, and at times, even threatening, we all are called to open the third door, and together stride out boldly knowing both the Cross and Star of David stand solidly behind us. By embracing mutual trust and respect, and by partnering with God and one another, we are all called to work together to heal a broken world.

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