Historic buildings are more than just piles of sticks and bricks. Over time, buildings become a part of our community narrative: the stories we create through our daily lives all have place. The spaces that enclose memorable events become inseparable from the events that happen within them and the people that pass through their doors. This effect is all the more profound when the buildings themselves are inspirational.

Despite the proliferation of crappy buildings created in the past 50 years, I think most people actually recognize this phenomenon to some degree. We do continue to recognize beauty in fine craftsmanship, thoughtful design, and artful space.

Des Moines Rehabbers Club meeting at Trinity ChurchDes Moines Rehabbers Club meeting at Trinity ChurchA perfect example of this is Trinity United Methodist Church in Des Moines' River Bend neighborhood. Trinity Church has embarked on a fabulous and difficult journey to restore their sanctuary and update the rest of the building to serve the congregation and the community for another 100 years.

Trinity Church has become more than just a building to house a congregation, though that is certainly a contributing factor. Through the development of a variety of service programs, the organization has evolved into a true pillar of support to the Des Moines community: breakfast and dinner are provided to hundreds of people daily in the basement; fifty children take part in before- and after-school care programs; teens and community members can use the computer labs to study; the doors are open from early morning to evening for anyone who needs a place to be. The building itself represents stability in a neighborhood that needs more constants.

With not a whole lot of internal capacity for funding the restoration project, Trinity Church has initiated an ambitious capital drive (with a lot left to go). Some of the work is being done with volunteer labor.

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Yesterday, the Iowa Supreme court issued a unanimous ruling declaring the state's "Defense of Marriage" act unconstitutional. I am not a legal scholar, and must pull my understanding of this ruling from other sources. In essence, the Court has determined that the State Constitution forbids discrimination in issuing marriage licenses based on the sex of the people applying for the license. By specifically defining marriage as between a man and a woman, the DOMA took on the state constitution and lost. Big time.

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Iowa Senate ChamberIowa Senate ChamberIowa State Legislature class of '09 opened, as it does every year, with prayers by local religious leaders. It almost sounds like the start of a bad joke, "A priest, a rabbi, and an imam were invited to speak the the Iowa Legislature..." But there is no punchline.

While I could make a case that state-sanctioned prayer at the Legislature's opening ceremonies, regardless of how many different religions are represented, violates a couple of the most important amendments to our Constitution, I won't. Instead I will discuss my problems with legislative prayer from a more pragmatic standpoint.

First and foremost, it is ridiculous and grandiose to think, as across the world people die from starvation, children work their fingers to a bloody pulp sewing shoes, and entire towns are eradicated by disease, that any God would spend its time helping the Iowa Legislature debate the finer points of the state gas tax. Any God that would devote time to helping the Iowa Legislature over any number of more pressing world problems doesn't deserve our praise or respect.

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