Church Life

In Stereo

On a Friday morning I slipped into
the sanctuary, dark and cool and empty of people. It smells of old wood,
reminding me of the Hill House, a historic landmark in my hometown of
Portsmouth, Virginia. The Hill family left it to preserve an era of dark, heavy
furniture; of inlaid tables imported by father from China; of now-antique dolls
displayed in the family cradle; of attic rooms once used by servant girls; of
the change from wood stoves and gas lights to their electrical successors. Past
and present, for them, lived side by side, just like the images viewed through
a stereoscope.


And there was a stereoscope, tucked
away in a roll-top desk. The tour guides would open the desk to show its many
drawers, and the items tucked away in them carefully. Then they would show the
stereoscope, careful that no one touch it. Through this hand-held
device you could see two pictures of the same image, which when
viewed together gave an impression of depth much like a pair of 3-D glasses.


If your grandmother happened to be
President of the Historical Society, you might get to hold the stereoscope up
to your very own eyes, to see the Wright brothers and their airplane just the
way the Misses Hill did so long ago.


On the other side of
heavy drapes, I open the modern door and smell the pies being baked for
the Clam Festival. On this particular morning a group of ladies will make 70
fruit pies, aided by a highly effective assembly line system of preparation and
the many shelves of the convection oven. Into the patiently rolled crusts go
peaches glistening, blueberries edged with purple, tart rhubarb amply sweetened
and cold chunks of butter. Crimped just right, browned to perfection, the
pies hold the juice of the moment, a promise of summer's heat on a rainy


For church people, for most of us,
these images connect and make sense: the beautiful sanctuary and the modern
kitchen, the memories of Sunday mornings indoors and the anticipation of summer
days outdoors. They create a cohesive view of this church, if
you have the proper way of looking at them.  


But outside, in this very town,
there are people who cannot see the whole picture. They do not have the
stereoscopic perspective that most of us never had to seek because someone
simply gave it to us.  Here the old and the new live side by side; it
is a task of faith to share the view with those who have never seen it.

(Written for the newsletter at Y1P)

6 thoughts on “In Stereo”

  1. So great…eyes with which to see, ears with which to hear. Nicely said!

  2. I wish I could get my hands on one of those pies. I would choose peach.
    And I wish I could convey the beauty of moments such as you describe to folks who have never experienced the small joys of church life.

  3. Peach it, sister!
    Thanks for the sensory journey. It was good to step out of this rainy day into Hill House and the pie-filled kitchen.
    Now I am looking forward to Clam Festival, even in a town where eyes do not always converge.

  4. Oh, I want pie, too. But is this the same Hill House that inspired Shirley Jackson?

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