Saturday, June 18, 2016

3-Day Immersion Excursion: Southern Style- DAY ONE

I’ve had a few recent trips on Sunday morning to the southern part of our diocese- serving at the altars of Transfiguration in Blue Ridge Summit and Calvary, Beartown in the past month-  but the whole point of the 3-Day Immersion Excursion is to go a little deeper.. and to explore the neighborhoods and the culture of the places in which our Episcopal churches are set.

What I’ve loved about these “3-Days” is that each one is so different from the next.  That tells me that the “project” is working- and I am learning so much about this place where God has called us to serve.  This is the fourth of seven “3-Days” that I will do (Susquehanna, Northern Tier and West Branch are under my belt; Harrisburg, Lancaster and Altoona are yet to come!) and so I set out yesterday with no small among of excitement and anticipation about learning about our Southern Convocation.

We started in Waynesboro at the parish of St. Mary’s.  The Rev. Linda Watkins is in her 10th year of ministry there and she and a group of parishioners were there to greet me and take me on a walking tour of this small town.  Waynesboro has 11.000 people in it and... wait for it... 72 churches.  Yes, 72 churches.

We started with a quick tour of St. Mary’s itself.  Two items in particular caught my eye:  the work of a Sunday School student  who worked painstakingly to build a model of a church... and one of the stained glass windows (Supper at Emmaus) that has a sweet little stained glass rosette inserted into it brought back from a cathedral in France. (?)  

Here’s a picture of St. Mary’s.. and our walking tour group:

Our walking tour took us past several of the 72 (!!) churches and down Main Street.  I learned about the hey day of industry in the area and how the landscape had changed as businesses came and went.  We saw the street where the homeless shelter is located and the building where a new shelter for homeless women is opening, and some of the civic touchstones:  police station and post office.  One of our walking partners pointed out signs of a changing demographic in town-  a Mexican restaurant and grocery and a Healing arts Center.   

Waynesboro is home to two, yes, two, Candy Stores; one of them is owned by Episcopalians.  We visited in Depuis Leo and marveled at the selection of chocolates.  We learned about the history of the original owner, Depuis, and her unflagging generosity to the townspeople.  From the stories that were told to me, I had to wonder how she ever made any money-   it sounds as though Depuis offered free confections to anyone who came into her shop.  I loved the old fashioned feel of the store and marveled at the long oak candy case. And, of course, I could not leave without a few treats for the road..

We supped at the local community soup kitchen- called “The Lunch Place”- that is housed at Christ United Methodist Church.  Over a wonderful lunch of chili, grilled cheese sandwiches, salad and rhubarb pie, I learned that this  feeding program serves between 60-80 people every day.  The spirit was high as we enjoyed our meal and talked with some of the other guests.  The Chief Organizer of this culinary enterprise, Pat, posed for a picture with Mother Linda.  Pat acknowledged that she is an Episcopalian at heart, but an ecclesiastical wanderer...(I loved how she said that she learns more about our faith and Our Lord by visiting several churches to hear the Word. She is interested in her life-long formation as a disciple.)

We also visited  the Ceramic Arts Studio in town where we found Elizabeth Shoemaker, one of St. Mary’s parishioners.  Elizabeth has discovered pottery as a recent avocation and showed us around this amazing studio where people of all skill levels can come to learn about ceramic arts and build their skill. 

After lunch I bid my St. Mary’s friends adieu and Mother Linda, Lee Layman (Church of the Transfiguration and Calvary) and I made a quick stop at Ft. Ritchie Community Center.

I forgot my camera (and my melting chocolates!) in the car at this stop, but we learned how this former army base has been re-figured into a Community Center that has state-of-the-art fitness equipment, a computer lab and serves as a home to a thriving day camp for kids in the summer.

In the afternoon, we turned back the clock to the 1800s as we spent time on the battlefield at Gettysburg.  I’d been to this hallowed ground once- last summer- and was overcome, then, by the solemnity and sacredness of the land.  It is almost as though the land speaks to you as you look out over the fields and imagine the tragedy of that fateful 3 day battle.  Our tour guide was The Rev. Doug Smith who serves as Rector of All Saints, Hanover most of the time- and tour guide at Gettysburg- in the balance.  Doug’s knowledge of and passion for Gettysburg is unparalleled and it was an honor to have him accompany me and my husband Glenn on this tour.  We made all of the usual stops- Little Round Top, the site of Pickett’s charge, Seminary Ridge, the “Angle"- and I was amazed as we drove by monument after monument, how Doug rattled off the regiment or battalion or the name of the person whom the monument memorialized without even looking... this stuff is in his bones.
It was an afternoon filled with stories and no small amount of sadness as we recounted the wages of war and reflected on the moral gain won at such great cost.

Our tour with Doug could have lasted all weekend-  but we another exciting appointment awaiting! 

 The Rev. Herbert Sprouse, Rector of the Prince of Peace Memorial Chapel at Gettysburg (Episcopal) had arranged for us to have a special “back stage” tour of the Cyclorama at the Gettysburg Visitors Center.  The Cyclorama is a giant circular painting of the Gettysburg battlefield at the time of Pickett’s Charge.  It is one of 4 identical paintings created to commemorate this event and, in an art form of the mid to late 1800s- made its way around the country, “touring” in several cities.  The version of the painting that has been restored and installed in Gettysburg is the one originally installed on Tremont St. in Boston.  The cyclorama was researched and painted by a French artist, Paul Philippoteaux in 1883.  It took Philippoteaux more than a year to paint the 42 X 377 ft. canvas in all of its authentic detail.  The docent and scholar who led our private tour gave us insight into the challenges of creating, maintaining and caring for this piece of art-  we learned about some of the paintings idiosyncrasies and the horrors of restoration and conservation (at one point, a private owner had cut the painting into strips to hang in his department store...)

A cylcorama is more than just a giant painting-  it is, really, an “art experience.”  A cyclorama installation includes a canopied viewing platform, the painting and a large diorama that serves to fill in the visual gap between the viewing platform and the painting.  The items in the diorama (mid ground) extend the painting from 2D canvas to a 3D experience and, in the right light, you feel as though you are actually on the battlefield, itself, surrounded 360 degrees by the painting and the "cyclorama experience.”

This private tour included the opportunity to walk down from the viewing platform to the actual canvas and also to step into the middle ground of the diorama to see how the 3-D effect of the art experience is achieved.  Really cool.

Our day ended with a late dinner at the Dobbin House.  Pictures eluded me as I was too busy enjoying the company of the parishioners from Prince of Peace and our tour guide Doug.. and eating a delicious plate of Maryland crab cakes.

What a day!

I crawled into bed around 11:30 grateful- so grateful for the witness of our people in this part of the diocese, for the richness of the history in this region, for the lessons learned from events like Gettysburg and with prayers for wisdom, that all those lives lost should not have been in vain.

Check back for more as Day 2 of our 3 Day Southern Style continues.  There’s lots more in store!

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