I love places that are … places. Stick with me – I know that sounded ridiculous. I gravitate towards places that have a history, meaning, intentional design, gravitas, etc. Some call this particular quality a “sense of place.” Historic homes and hole-in-the-wall restaurants have a sense of place. Cobblestone streets and farmhouse porches have a sense of place. I have a crystal-clear memory of stepping out of my daddy’s car onto the campus of Kenyon College, my alma mater, for the very first time when I was a junior in high school and being overwhelmed with the sense of place, and knowing in my gut that that place was where I was going to spend my college years.
Obviously, houses of worship have a sense of place. From great cathedrals to tiny clapboard congregations, the celebrations, sorrows, prayers, and liturgies of so many have hallowed those sacred places. And of course, our Chapel and her campus has a profound sense of place. Newcomers and long-time members alike know this whenever they drive on campus. We intrinsically know that this is a place of import and meaning.
However, we don’t fully know how and by whom that meaning was imputed. We know the noble history of the Johnstone family who built the Chapel, but we don’t know the intricacies of their prayers, and it is the latter that give the Chapel meaning. We don’t know what happened when the Chapel was abandoned, or used as a hay barn, or frequented by various yahoos growing up in Jackson who had heard tale of the mysterious Chapel out in the country. We celebrate the pillars of the parish who, through no small amount of blood, sweat, and tears, reconstituted the congregation in the 70s and 80s, but we don’t know the week-to-week celebrations that further sanctified this holy place.
And who is R.D.? Someone at sometime (my inquires have come up with nothing) carved the initials R and D into the altar rail. Was it someone giving thanks for prayers answered? Was it someone marking an adolescent love? Was it just a jerk who felt the need to vandalize. Who knows? Wherever you are R.D., God bless you. For all of these mysteries add to the mystique, the sense of place, the hallowedness of the Chapel and we feel it every week, even if we don’t understand why (and that is OK).
And as new folks discover this place – pray with us, give thanks with us, mourn with us, and transform with us, the depth of this place grows. This Sunday, 4 June, the Day of Pentecost, we will welcome five new brothers and sisters in Christ through the waters of Baptism: Eleanor, Olivia, Annabel, Owen, and Emma. Their young faiths, and the faith of their families and Godparents, are yet more voices in the great throng of saints that have been touched by this place. Alleluia. We will pray on Sunday, “Fill them with your holy and life-giving Spirit,” for they have already filled this place with their spirits.
On this Pentecost weekend, I give thanks for how the Holy Spirt has moved in this place and how many folks have given to and been transformed by the ministry of the Chapel. May God continue to bless this sacred place and all of us who are blessed to be part of the family.