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The Altar Guild Demystified

Hōkū Mākoi:The Epiphany Star

By Sharon Muramaru

During this past year, I have been researching the background of a certain historical artifact that the Epiphany Altar Guild has maintained since 1915. This curiosity of mine, led me to meeting new people and to visiting new places. Despite the fact that at this time, I still have no additional clues to the origins of our church’s historical artifact, I mustadmit, I am still mystified.

I do, however, want to share with you an interesting place I visited as a result of my questto satisfy my curiosity. I accidentally found a treasure trove of antique religious artifacts for sale. And they just happened to be located right in my mainland home’s zip code. How convenient is that!

I had contacted what I thought was a religious antique retail company located in Alpharetta, Georgia called King Richard’s. I was thinking that I might finally get information about our church’s mystery antique artifact. I did not get that information, but what I found was a whole lot more. I learned about a family business that is very unique in its nature, especially to us Hawaiians. I do not think there is any company in all of Hawai’i who specializes in this sort of business. That is the reason I want to share what I found with you. I hope you find this story as fascinating as I have, especially as we enter the holiday season with reflection and thankfulness for all we have.

King Richard’s is the name of the company I happened to come across in my ‘googling’ for information relating to religious artifacts. It turns out, however, that it is instead, a company that offers liturgical design, a specialty contractor of custom interiors that in essence uses recycled religious artifacts in renovating, remodeling and building of new churches.

Rick Lair is the owner and president of the company who has offices in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Atlanta. It has been a family operated business for over two decades. He originally started his business in Chicago.

Their religious artifact and archive library is the largest in the United States. It includes blue-print, designs, vintage church catalogs, proposals, stained-glass water-colors dating back to the 1800’s and hundreds of reference books.

There is no other company in the world that has designed, built, installed and dismantled more marble, plaster, and wood altars than this family’s business.

They also are the largest purchaser, and remover of antique altars in the world, that refinishes and restores them to their original splendor. They lead the industry in stained glass windows buying, removing, and refurbishing them. They work with skilled artists and represent a European stained glass studio that is more than 150 years old and has produced windows for buildings in over twenty countries around the world.

King Richard’s is known for its expertise in removal of religious artifacts from churches. They have removed huge marble columns and large intricately carved statues and altars. It is a very time-consuming and fragile process especially when removing stained glass windows and transporting them. In this day in age, when one speaks of a green company, I do believe this one is truly GREEN.

At King Richard’s, there are photos of many of projects that they have been involved in over the years requiring the removal and installation of various religious artifacts from churches. One example was of a photo I saw of a massive mosaic and marble altar that had been removed in Lowell, Massachusetts for the Archdiocese of Boston and re-erected in a new South Carolina church.

When a church closes, the expertise of King Richard’s can be called upon to remove precious icons and artifacts from a church and reinstalled in other churches. They also are able to replicate religious artifacts that may have been lost or damaged in storms such as Katrina. In such cases, it probably is wise to have a series of detailed photos of those item(s) for them to replicate. They also fabricate windows and altars to match or fit the spaces where needed. The liturgical design team creates and incorporates beautiful and custom ideas into projects.

Below is a photo of a BEFORE and AFTER renovation that they did of Sacred Heart Church of Peoria, Illinois.

Before

After

Their warehouse of artifacts that they sell and use for renovations is the largest I have ever seen. They do not sell anything on Ebay and sell only to churches and religious organizations. They exemplify the true meaning of preservation, practicality and ethical responsibility.

I am truly touched that I just happened to have found a gem of a company that makes our places of worship, God’s house, around the world more beautiful and glorious with the use of their unique preservation system. It is a method that involves the relocation of beloved and cherished religious artifacts that once belonged to a congregation but must be relocated due to the most unfortunate of circumstances, the closure of a church, or sometimes a horrific storm.

On the other hand, King Richard’s plays an important role in bringing the religious relics andicons back to life in all its glory to a new church. In a sense, Mr. Lair gives them life again for others in communities, all around the U.S. to continue their worship of our Lord. His business, in essence is giving the respectfulness and honor of our religious past and traditions through the resurrection of these precious icons of the past to live on. We should all be thankful for that. Unbeknownst to him and his employees, they all contribute to making this sometimes chaotic world a better place, one church at a time.

Due to our current economic times many churches and congregations across the USA have been negatively affected. It is comforting to tknow that these items will not be sold to the highest bidder on Ebay.

I find it comforting that churches and convents have a trusted place to sell or buy the cherished icons in time of need. I take heart in the fact that a new church would continue its cherished care. Mr. Lair does not realize that he is a special minister of sorts and is actively doing God's work.

The following photos are of various artifacts and replicas that are located in King Richard's warehouse in Georgia that I visited on November 19th. each artifact has its own history and awaits a new home. You can read more about King Richard's here. www.kingrichards.com

A very special thanks to Rick Lair and Valerie Wright for allowing an inside peek of their very unusual and specialized business and for letting me share a part of it here with my fellow parishioners and readers at Epiphany Church in Kaimuki, Hawaii.