Waiting For The Sun

IMG_6549In my opinion one of the coolest buildings in downtown Columbus is the former Central Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Chapel Street and Third.  It’s built in the Norman architectural style, with clean lines, turrets, and a bright exterior that looks more like a fort than a church.  I’ve never been inside, but apparently the interior is just as interesting as the exterior.

I walk past this building every day, to and from work.  I’ve been waiting for a day when, on my walk home, the afternoon sunlight strikes the church at just the right angle, illuminating the facade of the church while leaving it surrounded by deep shadow.  Today it happened.

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Simple And Beautiful

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There are many impressive houses and building at the Chautauqua Institution, but my favorite was a beautiful little church next to the Thunder Bridge. Bright and white in the afternoon sun, it had the wonderful value of simplicity.

The Stained Glass Of St. Chapelle

038In past visits to Paris, I’ve never been able to see the legendary St. Chapelle, because it was being renovated, or the lines were too ridiculously long.  This trip, I finally was able to check off that item from my bucket list.

033St. Chapelle was the home church of the early French king who was killed in battle during the Crusades and later became canonized as St. Louis.  The chapel itself is known primarily for its stunning stained glass windows, which are brilliantly colored, intricate and ornate, and reach to the very top of a high vaulted ceiling that seems to touch the heavens. The windows are generally viewed as the finest surviving example of stained glass artwork of the early Middle Ages.

The windows of the chapel each have a theme and depict Bible scenes that would be immediately familiar to the people of the time.  In addition to the windows, the chapel features fine wooden carvings of saints, small frescoes of Bible scenes, many of which are violent — how many people got beheaded, tortured or impaled during the early Christian period, anyway? — and a painting of Jesus engaging in the Last Judgment above the doorway.  I guess the idea was to remind you of the need to avoid the temptations of sin when you left the sacred sanctuary and returned once more to the real world.

As I craned my neck to take in the towering windows, I wondered about the medieval craftsmen who created the scenes at the very top, that cannot really be viewed and enjoyed by mortal man.  What must it have been like to work with dangerous substances like lead, doing the painstaking work needed to create delicate objects of such beauty, knowing that the product of your labors would be largely inaccessible to your fellow man?

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The Three Churches

IMG_4519Anyone who has been to Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia knows of the three churches.  They stand side by side at the corner of town and on the edge of the bay.  Their bells ring and echo down the inlet, letting us know the time.  And, on a wondrously calm, breathtakingly quiet morning, like today, they reflect perfectly in the still waters of the bay.

The Mission Trail

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The church at the Mission San Jose

San Antonio and its environs are home to four of the early Spanish missions — or at least, what remains of them.  From an historical preservation standpoint, the centuries have not been kind.

Yesterday I had a chance to visit two of the four missions, San Jose and Concepcion.  San Jose is the most complete mission, with its outer wall intact and the small rooms where Indian converts and visitors lived available for a look.  They are spartan, but practical — about what you would expect in a development that was intended to be an outpost of civilization in an untamed land.  Some of the outbuildings and outdoor ovens also may be found there, as well as the ruins of a convent.

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The facade of the cathedral at Mission San Jose

The centerpiece of the missions, of course, was the cathedral, and the church at San Jose Mission is striking — with a beautiful facade that features statuary of the saints and renderings of hearts, shells, and other meaningful symbols.  I wasn’t able to see the interior of the cathedral, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute.  At one time the church was covered with brightly colored tile that must have presented a dazzling sight for weary travelers on the dusty Texas plains, but most of the tiles are gone and the church now stands as a stone monument.

Mission Concepcion, which is found in the middle of a neighborhood, is much less complete.  It consists of a church, a well, some ruins, and a prayer area.  The church itself is simple, and what you would expect to find at a Spanish mission, with whitewashed interior walls.  Some signs of the former frescoes in the church may be seen, but for the most part the church interior has been decorated with modern paintings and furnishings.

The two missions must be popular wedding options.  When I visited yesterday, both were busy hosting nuptial ceremonies — which is why I was unable to see the interior of the church at San Jose.  That was disappointing, but I found myself feeling good about the fact that the churches were still being used as churches.  A lot of work went into building these missions, which served as agents of colonialism but also as a testament to the power of religious faith.  It’s nice to see that, centuries later, that part of the mission is still being served.

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At Mission Concepcion

30 Wonderful Years

Today is Kish’s and my 30th wedding anniversary.  They have been 30 wonderful years — but it’s still hard to believe it has been 30 years since that special day when we tied the knot.

It had been warm and in the 60s only a day or two before, but April weather in Ohio is notoriously unpredictable.  A cold front moved in, and when April 3, 1982 dawned in Vermilion, Ohio it was frigid, with snow falling and a brisk wind blowing.  We were married in Kish’s family church by a minister we really didn’t know.  He had insisted on counseling us about marriage; it’s always made me chuckle that he was divorced within a year or so while Kish and I have somehow muddled through and remained happily married for decades.  Perhaps he’s just an example of the old saying “those who can’t do, teach.”

We kept the ceremony as short as we could, consistent with the requirements of the church.  The entire service, from beginning to end, took about 12 minutes.  We planned it so that we didn’t have to light candles, read scriptures, or really do much of anything other than remain upright and repeat our vows.

I was glad the ceremony was short and simple, because I was nervous.  UJ, my best man, and I stayed in the baptismal tank until we were summoned into a full church.  I stood there, uncomfortable being the center of attention in my traditional black tuxedo, but felt a lot better when I saw Kish coming up the aisle, looking cool and beautiful and radiant in her lacy white wedding gown.  I knew that I was making a smart decision, and I was right.

An American Scene

How many small towns in America have you driven through on summer vacations where a white clapboard church was a prominent part of the local scenery?  In colonial days, and for more than a hundred years thereafter, a town’s local church was the center of activity and social life.  Those churches typically were not grand, awesome structures, such as you might find in Europe, but instead were simple, small, and unassuming — three qualities that make them distinctive and attractive today.

This photo was taken last summer of the church in Omena, Michigan.