The following comes from a September 5 story in the New York Times.
The inscribed granite stones that form the Walk of Faith outside the Crystal Cathedral here were supposed to last forever, sustained in perpetuity by the thousands of dollars churchgoers paid for them. Or so parishioners were told.
But like so much else at the Crystal Cathedral, the stones, many of them memorials to dead loved ones, have become expendable since the church, founded by the Rev. Robert Schuller, filed for bankruptcy protection three years ago.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, which bought the enormous glass and steel church last year, has begun ripping out the memorial stones as it begins major renovations to modernize the campus and convert the nondenominational megachurch to a Catholic place of worship. Over the next several years, most of the 1,800 stones will be removed, diocese officials said, and there are no plans to reinstall them. Instead, digital photos of the stones are now on display at a diocese-sponsored Web site.
Once a source of pride and a place to commemorate departed relatives, the Walk of Faith has now become yet another indignity for former Crystal Cathedral parishioners who devoted time and money to a church campus that is no longer theirs.
Twice, Judy De Clercq paid more than $2,000 to have a personalized stone installed on the walk, first in 1996 after her husband died, and again in 2010 after the death of her son.
Her family advised her not to buy the second stone for her son, because she lives on Social Security benefits. But she still visits the stone regularly, even though, at 88, she walks with a cane.
“The thought of them being dug up just sends me into tears,” Ms. De Clercq said, crying as she spoke. “I don’t even know if I’m going to live through this. I’ve just been so devastated.”
The cathedral was the creation of Dr. Schuller, the founder of the Sunday “Hour of Power,” which for more than a decade was the most-watched religious television broadcast. But by the time his organization filed for bankruptcy protection, the church had become overburdened by debt from vanity building projects, changes in the religious broadcasting industry and a deep rift in the church leadership over the line of succession….
The diocese has announced that those who purchased stones would be able to come and claim them. But at 100 pounds each, they will not be easy for someone like Ms. De Clercq to take home.
She now questions whether the cemetery where her husband and son are buried will indeed remain ecumenical, despite the diocese’s assurances. The balloons and artificial flowers that she used to occasionally leave on their graves have been banned — only fresh flowers are permitted now. Even the American flag she put there on Independence Day was removed, she said….
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