Stained Glass, Wood Pews, and Deep Roots
When you walk in the building a real sense of "You probably should be quiet in here" comes over you. I remember as a kid hating that, little kids never want to be quiet, they never want to sit still, they certainly don't think reading from a prayer book is nearly as cool as playing with a G.I. Joe. I'm speaking of the church building of my childhood, Trinity Episcopal Church in Statesville, N.C.
This past weekend I attended the 150 year anniversary of that church. My former priests came back to visit, Clay Turner and Joel Keys were both men that modeled much of what i wanted to be in life. Clay and Joel both birthed in me a love for fly fishing. I took it up late in life but remember well seeing them heading off to the mountains with their rods and wicker creels hoping someday that would be me.
I remember as those men administered communion, "The body of Christ, The Cup of Salvation". I remember looking up from those deep, rich brown pews high to the cathedral ceilings in the center of the church to the stained glass window of a triumphant resurrected Jesus. But I also remember a gentle nudge to follow this very wild God in the way that they had. I remember their vestments and "Holy" cloths. I remember how kind those men were and how I wanted to be near them and listen to them.
I suppose my vocation as a Chaplain and Pastor was very much birthed by Jesus using those two guys in my life as a little boy.
I remember that it didn't make that much of an impression on me then.
But add 40 years of life, death, war, joy, encounters with God, blessing, pain, struggle, marriage, children, successes and failures and it leads to a renewed view of the inside of that building. Yes the building is wood and brick and glass, but as I look back I see how God was moving me along in those years where I had so many questions unanswered.
I sat there this past Sunday and heard the current Bishop, and African American man full of passion break open God's Word from John 12:31-34. He spoke of the heritage of that church that in 1968 at the height of the Civil Rights movement when the denomination I currently align with sat on the sidelines of the hatred and the violence. In the middle of the south not 65 miles from the Woolworth's in Greensboro NC, where a young black man refused to get up from his place at the lunch counter, in the same year when Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were murdered, when it would have been easy to sit it out, two small churches did something amazing. Trinity Episcopal a white church and Holy Cross Episcopal Mission a black church decided to combine congregations. In the midst of all that mess, Jesus was lifted up and men and women of different colors came together to worship him.
I sat and listened to that story with my mouth open, because in all my years I had never heard it. I am so glad it was told again. Bishop Curry spoke baldy and loudly and something happened in that church that I had never heard, spontaneous applause! That just doesn't happen in the reverent atmosphere of a liturgical church. It was inspiring. Jesus was present and he was drawing all men unto Himself.
I left there proud that my mom and dad joined that church when I was a child. And even though I wasted many years chasing the world and being unappreciative of my spiritual heritage, I have been renewed this week and for all intents and purposes I am better for having spent my Sunday morning among those pews, and stained glass and getting a new look again at my deep roots