Visiting the place where I began to store them up
Yesterday I visited my childhood church home for services. I have wanted to go back and visit for a long time, but Aunt Ruby’s recent death spurred me to get there, finally. It was with her, Uncle John and our cousins that Reed and I first started going to church in this beautiful old building. My memories of the times spent there, the visual beauty of the place and the familiarity of the order of service came flooding back, washing over me like a warm wave of comfort. The Gloria Patri, Apostles’ Creed and Doxology with which I was raised issued forth just as they have for generations.
I parked my car in a visitor space and made my way to the nearest entrance, and when I stepped inside I was overcome with the fragrance of the building, warmth and home. Immediately I was transported back to my childhood and youth group days by the mix of scents: antique wood and tile, varnish and candle smoke, old lady perfume and the “golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints…”
Some of the physical aspects of the place have been updated and changed over the years. Padding on the pews and carpeting on the stairs make it a little safer and more comfortable. But many more things remain unaltered since my days there. The colorful windows are still intact, thank God! Images of faith in glowing stained glass shaped my earliest memories of church and worship, and helped me to learn what being a Christian was all about.
We spent a great deal of time there as children, and many times we went exploring the less public parts of the building, places we were convinced no one else knew about. There are many back stairways and narrow passages in that place. Once I remember making our way up into the pipes of the majestic organ, (NOT during services, we would have gone deaf!) an instrument that was funded, installed and dedicated during my childhood there.
The organ and choir sounded just as wonderful yesterday as I remembered them. A few members from my childhood days are still there, and still singing in that choir. Some things never change. I find that very comforting.
There has always been an intricate wood carving of the Da Vinci painting of The Last Supper in front of the choir loft, and it too is still there. Yesterday was actually a communion Sunday, and I was privileged to partake once more in the elements of body and blood, in the place where I first learned what communion was and what it meant. This service of communion was both solemn and joyful for me, and very poignant as I remembered all the times I have prayed, communed, cried and laughed in that place, with that branch of God’s family tree.
My cousin Alan’s favorite window was the anchor in what used to be called the Little Sanctuary. That space has since been closed off and renamed the Flossie Cox Prayer Chapel. Mrs. Cox was Mama and Aunt Ruby’s Sunday school teacher for years, a wise and gentle lady who loved the Lord and loved His people. I always loved the window that shows an offering being placed in a treasure chest, reminding me both of the story of the widow who gave more than all the others because she, in her poverty, offered her last mite, and of Jesus’s admonition to store up treasures in Heaven.
I saw many childhood friends yesterday, hugged and smiled and got a little teary-eyed a couple of times. This church, this place, was where I was confirmed and baptized, where I learned how much I loved to sing, songs like “This Is My Father’s World” and “For The Beauty Of The Earth”.
It is where my faith journey began. That journey has taken me into many other churches, a few different denominations and allowed me to meet and love many of my brethren along the way. But there is something special about the places where one grew up. And even though I no longer attend church there, I will no doubt find my way back from time to time, because it was…Is…Home.