“Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.” ~ Tinybuddha
Over the last two days I’ve had several conversations concerning evangelical and mainline denominations of the Christian faith. So it was with those talks in mind that I found it oddly coincidental when, tonight, I came across this photo from the 2014 Sorghum Festival parade. It was near the end of the shoot and it is just about as random as can be. There are no other photos associated with him. There’s no pictures of the float in front of him or behind. There’s a picture of a friend, then the friend’s son watching the ROTC march by, and in between is just a guy carrying a cross down the middle of the street as if he was invisible to everybody but me and one little kid. “Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth,” is a pretty fitting quote I’d say. And you don’t have to carry a cross, literal or otherwise, to prove it. Just go do your thing.
“Look up, laugh loud, talk big, keep the color in your cheek and the fire in your eye, adorn your person, maintain your health, your beauty and your animal spirits.” ~ William Hazlitt
We came back to the library after lunch to find a small congregation just outside the doors. One parishioner steadied the cross while another quietly recited some verse. They began to sing a familiar hymn then turned somberly away from the library and walked in silence. I’m sure it was the Catholic Newman Center, Holy Parish of the University of Kentucky congregation. Every year on Good Friday they do the Stations of the Cross around campus. For you non-Catholic readers, Catholic Online describes the stations best: “The Stations of the Cross are a 14-step Catholic devotion that commemorates Jesus Christ’s last day on Earth as a man. The 14 devotions, or stations, focus on specific events of His last day, beginning with His condemnation. The stations are commonly used as a mini pilgrimage as the individual moves from station to station. At each station, the individual recalls and meditates on a specific event from Christ’s last day. Specific prayers are recited, then the individual moves to the next station until all 14 are complete.” Some non-Catholic denominations also observe the Stations of the Cross, such as my Episcopalian friends. The Stations aren’t necessarily only observed on Good Friday but other times throughout the year as well. It’s a very interesting ritual and I can understand its importance in helping bring greater clarity to worship. I was pleased to see the congregation outside the library and I was quite pleased to know there are folks who can take time out of their busy work day to practice their faith.
“Just because you can’t see the seeds that lie deep in the ground, it doesn’t mean they aren’t growing.
Everything blooms in its own time.” ~ Unknown
I went with Stacy to Palm Sunday services at St. Raphael Episcopal Church. I’d been to St. Raphael only once before, just last year, and not for service, but to attend an artist reception for Lori-Lyn Hurley. I’d met interim priest at the time, Rev. Karen Booth, and she was wonderful. I never made it back to her her speak, but we thought she was still there for today’s services. She wasn’t. Instead, as it happened, this was the first service for St. Raphael’s new rector, Rev. Canon Dr. Helen Van Koevering, or Rev. Van Helen as Stacy later coined her. I nearly spit out my tea when she did. Now, Rev. Van Koevering will forever be known to me as Rev. Van Helen no matter what. Jokes aside, this really was her first Sunday at the church. You can read more about her here. I felt bad that she was sort of thrown in the deep end, but honestly, she did a fantastic job. Her sense of humor was apparent from the start, and that, of course, won me over right away. Her message was a good one. Stacy talked to her for a very long time afterward, and I was impressed with how deeply she listened and how warmly she welcomed Stacy to drop by anytime throughout the week. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a priest or preacher throw their doors so wide open. That is Christlike and a breath of fresh air. I’m not Episcopalian, but I’ll go back, and I’ll be welcomed.
“There will be haters, there will be doubters, there will be non-believers,
and then there will be you proving them all wrong.” ~ Unknown
Last week a co-worker’s old high school classmate passed unexpectedly. He was about my age. I mentioned that I’d lost two or three classmates this year. It’s definitely three with today’s passing of Welma Trimble. It started with Leona Lewis in January, then Charlie Osborne in April, and now Welma. I loved these people. They were my age, too, and frankly, we’re too young to be checking out just yet. Fires are scorching the Great Smokey Mountains. People are extremely upset over the presidential election. Wars are raging all over the world. Loved ones near and far have, or are, experiencing life altering events this year. Did David Bowie really hold the Universe together? It sure seems like he did since it’s all gone weird since he died at the beginning of 2016. With the news of Welma’s passing I went in search of comfort. Naturally, I turned to my photos, and what should first appear but this cross atop the Victory Avenue Church. Then came a conversation with the woman responsible for the outhouse; Mary Carroll-Hackett. She, too, is having her own bizarre brand of 2016. I’m telling you: virtually every person I know is having a profound year. As usual, Mary’s words strike a chord: “Death is not final. It’s hard as shit, but it’s not final.” Remember that. Be thankful for every day you have with the people you love, the people you work with, the strangers you meet along the way, your pets, and every breath you draw into your body. These are gifts to be celebrated. Now, go celebrate and let’s turn this crazy train around.
“Sometimes what you’re looking for comes when you’re not looking at all.” ~ Unknown
I ran into Jeff Suchanek today. He’d seen yesterday’s post about the Sunken City, and told me he didn’t see the cross when we were there. I don’t know if the cross is symbolic of lost lives (maybe someone died during the disaster, I don’t know), or maybe someone just thought it was cool. After all, graffiti artists have made good use of the broken concrete slabs and leaning palm trees, so why not a cross, too? But you know me, I love a good well placed cross. This certainly qualifies. I really don’t know if someone lost their life here, but I sure hope not. I’d rather believe the cross is here as a symbol of hope. We all need a little reminder of hope now and again.
“All things considered, I am a most fortunate person, and I know it.” ~ Marcella Christensen
As we were making our way up the coast to Wayfarer’s Chapel we stopped in San Pedro near Point Fermin. The road came to a dead end at this bluff. There was a skate park to the left, and to the right, behind a tall steel-bar fence, was this cross. I looked at the disjointed rolls of land and finally realized it used to be a road. No doubt it had houses joined to it one side at least.
We couldn’t get to the rubble from where we were – the incline too dangerous – but clearly others could. Some time later I looked at the area with Google’s satellite view and it’s obvious where the street and its houses slipped into the Pacific. I did some digging and found that locals call this “Sunken City.” The land started sliding in 1929, as much as 11″ a day at times, until the road, streetcar tracks, and two houses slid into the ocean (they actually managed to relocate most of the houses before the collapse). Even parts of Point Fermin Park slid down the cliff. It seems there’s been no small amount of controversy providing pubic access to the area, but by all accounts when we were there, the public has access.
Homes on the other side of the skate park are poised to drop off the cliff with the next strong storm, earthquake, or the soil begins to shift like it did in 1929. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in such a situation. Talk about being grateful for every day! I mean, sure, anything can happen to any one of us at any moment no matter where we are, but imagine living in a house that’s on shifting soil, where your neighbors already sank a hundred feet, and your back deck juts out over land enough to give shade to a small family of mountain goats. It is at once amazing, beautiful, glorious, and terrifying. My hat is off to those folks, and I hope they never find themselves slipping over the edge. Meanwhile, I’m eternally grateful to be on solid ground (well, as solid as it can be, all things considered).
“Flawsome (adj): An individual who embraces their ‘flaws’ and knows they’re awesome regardless.”
There is something moving about the cross, chalice, and communion table at Cane Ridge, especially when there is a communion about to take place. I never fully understood communion until I began to attend First Presbyterian. In the Pentecostal church where I grew up, I only remember communion being served once a year, reserved for either elders or members or both. It wasn’t for me, or at least it didn’t feel like it was. I’ve since come to understand communion as a shared experience with others who believe that Jesus was a cool dude: enlightened would be the perfect word. He said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He did so without judgement. We humans are judgmental beasts. I apologized to Tammy Jo for weeds growing in my flower bed. She softly replied, “No judgement. Things are the way they need to be.” In that instant I heard Jesus, God, Yahweh, the Universe, the Creator, Buddha: “No judgement. Things are the way they need to be.” Each time I sit down to a meal with a friend or my family, I share in communion with them whether they realize it or not, working to do so without judgement. I’m a work in progress.
“My goal is not to be better than anyone else, but to be better than I used to be.” ~ Wayne Dyer
It’s Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday in Scotland as I came to learn this evening. I didn’t know what Maundy Thursday meant until I went to First Presbyterian Church. Maundy is Latin for ‘commandment’. During the Last Supper (Maundy Thursday) with his disciples, Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) He also instituted the Eucharist (communion) and foot washing during the Last Supper. I vaguely remember Mamaw going to a foot washing service, but it seems like it was part of a New Years Eve service (I could be mistaken). I don’t ever remember communion being served. The church had an “In Remembrance of Me” communion table, so it must have been observed at some point, but certainly not with any regularity. In any case, I mention it because this evening I attended the Maundy Service at First Church wherein Rev. Mark Davis talked about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. He also talked at length about what we do with our hands in the service of Christ. For instance, it was Jesus’ hands that broke the bread and poured the wine that have come to symbolize the body and blood of Christ during communion. I’ve come to appreciate and look forward to both Maundy Thursday and communion (even when it’s not Maundy Thursday). These rituals soothe me, and remind me of what is at the heart of the Christian faith: love. A commandment that seems to get lost in so many ways these days. I had the chance to hug a good number of people I love after tonight’s service, so that’s a bonus for me. I chalk this up to a grand day indeed.
“Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return.” ~ Ralph Marston
We skipped the second church on the Cade’s Cove loop because there were too many people there. It was the Methodist Church, and judging from the windows outside, it was more ornate than the Primitive Baptist Church. However, we stopped at the third, and last, church on the loop, the Missionary Baptist Church. There was no one in the church when we arrived. No bard to serenade us and tell us its history.
Like the Primitive Baptist Church, it was a simple wooden box church with one exception. The pulpit was built as a bay which completely changed the sound of the room. This lead to my further understanding of why our bard from Marysville chose to play in the Old Primitive Baptist Church. And where there had once been a wood stove now lay bricks in the shape of a cross. I have never seen anything quite so out of place, and I’m not entirely convinced it was a relic of the congregation as much as a thoughtful prank. Perhaps it was used as an altar for the call to prayer. Apart from that, I really can’t guess its purpose. In any case, it was a lovely little church and I was pleased to visit it.
“Nothing is impossible; there are ways that lead to everything, and if we had sufficient will we should always have sufficient means. It is often merely for an excuse that we say things are impossible.”
~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld
There are three churches in Cade’s Cove. The first you come to on the loop is the Old Primitive Baptist church. Naturally, I stopped. Inside the church was a man near the pulpit playing an instrument I had never seen. It is called a Psaltery Harp, or simply a Psaltery. It can be plucked or bowed. It can even be hammered like a dulcimer, though it is not in the dulcimer family I was told. This is an ancient instrument that is most often plucked, though our bard, a confessed self-taught amateur, was using a bow. Click here to hear a bowed Psaltery duet.
Our bard, whose name I neglected to ask, was from Marysville, Tennessee. He said that he likes to play at the Old Primitive Baptist church simply for the acoustics. I can understand that. The church was originally built in 1827. The building standing now was built in 1912. All of the wood came from the Cove, and for some reason, the builders chose pine for the ceiling. Its sap made it a sticky wood to work with, and the hand prints of the children who held the boards in place for the men to hammer can still be seen. Nevertheless, the simple wooden box provides a warmth that many modern churches just don’t have, and I enjoyed listening to this ancient instrument in such a place. It reverberated deep into my bones.
Though our bard was kind enough to tell us a few things, mostly about the inside of the church and his Psaltery, there was little detail about the church’s history or its surrounding graveyard (which very clearly holds many of the Valley’s first pioneers). But we didn’t need a lot told. Morgan County is littered with similar churches; the kind my great-grandfather Hamilton attended well into his 90’s. I never see a small wooden box church like this that I don’t think of him walking two miles, one way, down a pot-holed dirt road to his Union Church at Dingus, Kentucky. These places used to be part worship center, part community center for small populations with sometimes vast distances between them like those of Cade’s Cove. For me, these structures reflect the simpler times in which they thrived. I find that comforting, and I appreciate that they still exist. I’m hoping our bard will be there when I go back. I’ll be sure to catch his name and ask him to play for us again.