Our Ship of Faith

 

 A Poem Celebrating the Sesquicentennial (150th year) of the founding of Grace Episcopal Church in Astoria.

 

They wanted a church for the future,

reaching beyond

the frontier beginnings

and temporary accommodations, beyond

the first small church they had outgrown.

They envisioned a temple

like an exclamation mark of faith,

spacious, tall, and  gracious.

The architecture begged to be

Gothic, with heavenward-pointing

spires, arches, and  vaults,

not made of cold grey stone or

brick and mortar as in the old country,

but made of  timber                    ·

from native forest,

wood of warm hues from old-growth trees,

fragrant when cut,

preserving the strength of giants

and the sway of the  wind.

 

The joyful bustle and noise of building

began, with hoisting of beams,

planing and hammering,

doweling and dove-tailing

with Praise the Lord

and I’m on my journey home,

the plumb lines straight

from Heaven to earth,

they raised for God an abode

like a proud inverted ship,

a ship with a cargo of faith.

 

Mindful  of tradition, they kept

from the first church

The Sacraments and Trenchard windows,

the organ, the bell, the granite

Baptismal Font, the blessed name

of Grace, and consecration on

Ascension Sunday.  For the first time,

sacred sound filled sacred space,

revealing the sanctuary’s perfect resonance

when alleluias and amens

were thrust to the peak of the vault

and the firmament beyond.

 

By and by, beneficent worshipers

have adorned the church

with crosses and carvings,

pulpit and paraments, with

lectern, stoup, Stations of the Cross,

and one by one more stained glass

windows, transfiguring light

on days gloomy or bright.

 

As the woodwork has seasoned

to a mellow patina

from the glow of candles,

the sanctuary has retained each

day the Lord has made,

each prayer,

each confession,

each communion,

each baptism, confirmation,

Marriage and burial, has retained

feast days and ordinary time,

hymns, sermons, and pageants:

faith has happened here.

 

When we step up and kneel to receive

the sustenance of bread and wine, we

behold the fair beauty of the Lord

              in His Temple.

When zealous children ring the bells,

venerable Thomas and Gloria exclaim

from the height of the tower:

This is the House of God

              and the Gate to Heaven!

 

Karin Temple

September,  2014