The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
BY: JUSTIN ALLAMAN - Rozetta
When we finally found the dilapidated building, it was almost more accident than intention. It was a perfect autumn day; Dad and I should have been out in the fields picking corn. We had been seeking a church neither of us had been to before; we had received word they wanted to donate an old stained glass window, housed inside. While driving, we had talked of harvest: how green the corn looked as we drove by and how short this winter would seem following a late harvest. Now we had stumbled upon the old church, a silent husk of a building in a sea of whispering corn.
White paint was peeling off the small structure, revealing the old timbers underneath. Three turkeys ambled around the building, scratching up bugs that lived in the tall weeds that were growing in profusion. What appeared to be the old gravel parking lot had been absorbed into the neighboring field, tall corn plants growing from it. In front of the church, a marquee stood sentinel among the weeds, stating the obvious in white bold letters: "NO CHURCH."
The front door was locked shut. We walked around the building, eventually making our way to the back door. The windows were exposed, except one which had been boarded up, sheltering what was presumably our hunted window. The door opened at my touch. We entered as investigators, trying to glean what little information we could of this little church's existence, its death.
Stairs led down to the basement, illuminated by sunlight coming in from the windows. A faded, red hymnal lay in abandonment on the grimy linoleum floor of the fellowship hall, its binding in tatters. "Favorite Hymns of Praise" adorned the front in washed out golden letters. Underneath was a yellowed script from a Christmas program performed in 1964.
How many times had people gathered down here? Innumerable potlucks, ice cream socials, and fellowships, surely. The metal folding chairs were still stacked against the wall. On the far side was the old nursery, the wooden crib still in the corner.
Carpeted stairs led up, where wide-open doors welcomed us into the hollow sanctuary. The pews had all been removed, rectangular spots on the floor gave evidence to where they had sat. There were squares on the wall that were less faded then the rest of the room where pictures of Christ had hung, the ancient Shepherd watching over his flock that had been scattered by modern day wolves. Words were engraved high on the front wall, directly behind where the pulpit would have stood: "The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him." In contrast, an old piano stood nearby. Listening to the silence, we could almost hear the words to "How Great Thou Art" reverberating through the room, back to where announcements were hanging in perpetuum on the bulletin board.
In the center of the room there was a bulletin lying on the floor next to a King James Bible. I bent over to pick it up. "Hope" was emblazoned across the front of the paper with the date marking when it had been printed. September 9, 1984. Twenty-nine years ago, almost to the day. Inside was the Invocation:
"Lord Almighty, holy and eternal Father, who dwells in the high and lofty place:we come before You, asking You to cleanse us by the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may give praise to You, now and forever."
Just the previous Sunday my own pastor had preached on spiritual revival. How Josiah, King of Judah had commissioned repairs to the temple of the Lord which had been neglected by his ancestors. Where was the modern day Josiah for this wreckage?
They would have had an auction. A slick-tongued professional called in to hawk the Lord's wares. Piece by piece the church would have been parceled out, some of it going home to former worshippers, some to complete strangers. Items would have been held up as numbers flashed in the crowd. The less valuable items would have been gathered on a hayrack and sold in bundles.
It's said that Christianity is always one generation from extinction. Here was living proof. God has no grandchildren.
The stained glass window we sought was visible from the inside, a memorial left to a World War I veteran. Its multi-colored surface showed a bank of clouds crowding the bottom of the frame and a bright star shining triumphantly above. We discussed the best ways of detaching it from the building. We'd be back another day to do that.
We slipped from the building, subdued, leaving nothing but our footprints. We headed for the truck, then realized there was something that needed to be done before we left. Ten minutes later we pulled out and disappeared down the road, leaving a new message of hope for any who might pass by: "CHRIST STILL LIVES."
I'll see you Sunday morning...
[Editor's Note: This Sunday, December 22nd is the celebration in Christian Churches across the nation of the birth of God's son, Jesus Christ, Saviour of the World. Many churches also have Christmas Eve Candlelight, Communion Service or Mass.
"For God Sent Not His Son Into The World To Condemn The World; But That The World Through Him Might Be Saved."
- John 3:17 King James Version of The Bible.]