This blessing was read at the end of worship yesterday, June 9th, as we honored Hazel for all she has done for our community. In the afternoon, the Landings Association held a reception for Hazel at the Sunset Room at Delegal Marina.
For Hazel Brown
Out of Mid-America you came, four decades ago.
The church was still in the fire barn
and the island mostly uninhabited.
You came with your husband,
looking to enjoy retirement,
as you exchanged the prairie wind
for salty air and water
and the dreams of sailing.
Over the decades you have seen many changes,
as houses were built, an island populated,
and finally even a new bridge constructed.
All the while people came and went,
some moved on and others left this life.
But through it all, you remained positive,
always smiling, never making enemies,
serving as a beacon of hope.
And though retired, you have remained busy.
You cared for a husband and then, after his death, another.
You served as the president of the Landings Association,
secretary of the Kiwanis Club,
a leader of the Coastal Botanical Gardens,
an Elder in your church,
and chair of a pastor’s nominating committee.
Hazel, may you know your years of service made this a better place.
We are grateful for what you have done.
And now as you leave us, to return back to mid-America,
to Arkansas, near your daughter, you are entering another stage of life.
Know that we will miss you as we cherish the time we had.
As hard and as sad it is, we understand and send you off with our blessings.
We pray for our Heavenly Father to look upon you with mercy and grace
and to keep you safe until that day when you are called to our true home.
In that new age, when Jesus reigns as our glorious king,
may we be reunited and look back to these days on Skidaway,
a speck within eternity,
This is Part 2 of a 3 part series on a recent trip through the Okefenokee Swamp. Click here for part 1.
It is amazing how tired one can be after a day of paddling. Last night, we both were in our hammocks about 30 minutes after sunset, when we were suddenly bombarded by mosquitoes. For a while, I tried to read, but found myself falling asleep to the sound of night, frogs croaking and insects singing. The most bothersome insects, mosquitoes, were just inches away, on the outside of the hammock’s netting. I wake only one during the evening, to find my left arm pressed against the netting. Several mosquitoes had already feasted upon me through the net. The next time I wake, it is getting light. I hear the mating roar of a few alligators around the edge of the lake. They sound like someone trying to start a two cycle engine, such as an old boat motor or a chainsaw. I get up. With long pants and a long shirt and a little repellant, the mosquitoes aren’t too bad. I decide to fish a bit while Gary slept in. There were only a few open places around the hammock where I am able to drop a popping bug on a fly rod. After a few casts, a fish rises for the bait, but doesn’t take it and soon, I have an alligator friend, a small dude about four feet, watching me. Knowing what I’m doing, like a good friend, he’s ready to help me take any fish off a hook without me getting my hands all slimy. Sadly, for him, I don’t have another bite and, when I put my rod away and began to make breakfast, he heads back under the lily pads in search of his own breakfast.
With only a little over ten miles to paddle to the next platform at Big Water, we take our time getting ready. The morning is gray with a light breeze. As soon as the sun rises, the mosquitoes mostly disappear. We enjoy a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, finish drying out our clothes from the day before, and pack up. At ten, we leave the platform and paddle toward what we thought was the exit from lake only to find that we’ve missed it. In the high lily pads, it takes us several attempts to find the narrow channel that leads us back to the red trail. As it was with the last five miles the day before, we are often paddling through lily pads that are high and require and extra effort to push our boats through. It’s exhausting work and soon I’m sweaty.
Shortly after leaving Maul Hammock, the trail begins to look more like a regular stream bed as we are entering the headwaters of the Suwanee River. We spend the rest of the morning and into the early afternoon fighting through the lily pads, making a measly mile and a half an hour. The highlight of this day is seeing a large owl fly out from the trees just over me and down the river, where he gains elevation until it’s above the trees and then it turns and leaves the channel and flies into the swam. At one in the afternoon, when we break for some lunch, which we eat in our kayaks. We’ve covered less than five miles. Shortly after lunch, we arrive where, sometime in the past few months, they’ve cut back the lily pads with a machine mounted on a small dredge that chops up the lily pads roots. These roots or rhizome, when floating on the surface, look a lot like an alligator. Despite the looks of the floating rhizomes, the paddling is now easy.
We arrive at Big Water platform at 3 PM. There’s a group of three guys who’d paddled up from Stephen Foster State Park. They are taking a rest before paddling back out, as they were not planning on staying the night. They have a cooler with them and offer us a cool beer. I enjoy not just drinking it, but putting the cold can on my sweaty forehead. This platform is on the western edge of a wide spot in the river, with nice views of the cypress line stream in both direction. Later that evening as we prepare dinner, we notice how the bullfrog chorus will seemingly start in one direction and slowly make its way up or down the river, almost like a wave makes itself around a ball park. There are also a number of alligators and we watch several of them argue over territory (or mates). I spend a few minutes fishing but have no luck, but as it was in the morning at Maul Hammock, an alligator stands on point, waiting for something to bite my line so he (or she) might help me keep my hands clean by relieving me of any fish I might catch. There’s a journal in the shelter register and someone suggests that if you hook a fish, you have to reel very fast if you want to keep it away from gators. With all the good food we have with us, we are not going to starve without fish. Instead, we enjoy a peaceful dinner along with a couple of ounces of Woodford Reserve Bourbon (Gary brought the good stuff) as we watch the light fade in the evening. Again, soon after the sun sets, the mosquitoes are back out and we head to our respective hammocks.
Sleep isn’t quite as deep this evening. I leave the fly off my hammock in order to get maximum airflow, but at 1:30 AM, a storm is approaching. I get up and put my fly on (while we are under a tin roof, it’s not that wide and the rain will be blown under the roof). Next, I make sure that everything is put up and secured and won’t blow away. Once done, I watch the approaching lightning turn the swamp into a magical place as the cypress and their bearded Spanish moss are silhouetted by the flashes of light. Soon, instead of flashes, we there are streaks of lightning dancing across the sky. I’m in awe. The wind picks up and I get back into my hammock in order to stay dry. Soon, I’m asleep, but wake up several more times as more storms move through the area.
When I wake in the morning, there is still thunder to the south. But the birds are singing throughout the swamp and the heavy humidity is moderated with an occasional cool breeze. Gary has brought along a can of corn beef hash along with eggs. We have a feast for breakfast, taking our time as we have a fairly short day paddling to Floyd’s Island.
We leave Big Water at 10 AM. The river stays wide for the next mile or so, then it narrows up into channels where there is some flow of the water, but with tight turns that I often have to stop and backup to get my big kayak (18 foot) through the passage. We paddle through areas that have been burned in fires. Over the past two decades, there have been several summers in which the swamp and surrounding areas have experienced massive fires. But the good news is that the cypress is coming back and are standing eight to twelve feet tall. But it is still sad to see many of these burned out areas, but fire is a natural part of the ecosystem and they open up opportunities for new species of plants and animals to thrive.
Five miles south of Big Water platform, we come to the cut off trail to Floyd’s Island. Both Gary and I have been here before, when we paddled into Floyd’s Island from Stephen Foster State Park. The canal pathway takes us across the bottom of Floyd’s Prairie and then narrows up into a tight tunnel like passage where paddles are used for poling instead of paddling. It rains off and on, but never very hard. Before we know it, we pull up on the sandy beach. We are at Floyd’s Island and it wasn’t even 1 PM. We’d paddled 7 ½ miles.
Floyd’s Island is named for the leader of the Georgia militia who invaded the swamp during the second Seminole war in 1838. His men found and burned a Seminole village, and named the island for him. They then continued to bushwhack through the swamp. As they headed into the swamp, they were in good condition and well equipped. When they came out on the other side, having done something no Europeans had done, they were ragged, but they had conquered a vast unknown section of the country. Floyd was both intrigued and horrified at the swamp. He called it a most beautiful and an infernal place.
With all afternoon to kill, we haul our gear up to the old cabin on Floyd’s island. We string our hammocks and set up a living room on the front porch. The back of the cabin is blocked off because a huge pine had fallen and crushed part of the back of the cabin. The last time we were here, in 2015, Gary and several others (there was a group of nine of us) slept in the cabin. I decided that night I would stay in my hammock. After hearing about the rats, I assumed I’d made the right decision.
We eat lunch under the front porch during a downpour. A turkey and a fawn with spots make their way through our camp as we wait for the rain to clear. Later in the afternoon, when the storms have cleared, we move our kayaks, portaging over the quarter mile or so of the island, so that we’d be ready for the next day’s paddle. That evening, we cook over an open fire. The smoke helps deter the biting flies. We enjoy crackers and cheese, party nuts, along with some Johnny Walker Black Label. Again, I’m impressed with Gary’s beverage selection. I’m saving my cheap bourbon. Tomorrow, Gary will paddle out of the swamp while I will stay for another night.
We leave our vehicles at Okefenokee Adventures where we have arranged for a shuttle to our put-in site some twenty-five miles to the north. In five days (four for Gary, who will leave a day before me), I’ll come out of the swamp here. Our shuttle driver is a retired mechanic from CSX railroad. As he drives us to Kingfisher Landing, he points out old Hard-shell Baptist Churches that still sing shape-note music. When he hears that our first night will be at Maul Hammock, he tells us the story of the first reported account of Bigfoot, which occurred in the early part of the 19th Century near where will be camping. Seven men went into the swamp and were attacked by a huge hairy beast. Supposedly, the beast was killed but not before he killed five of the men. The other two fled before any of Bigfoot’s friends could finish the job. A hammock, in this country, is a piece of high ground with trees. The “Maul” part comes from the supposedly attack by Bigfoot. When we arrive at Kingfisher Landing, he points us over to the woods opposite the canal, where the rusty remains of an old logging truck designed to run on rails sits.
We push off from Kingfisher Landing a little after 10 AM. The air is hot and heavy with humidity. There are some clouds in the sky. Our trail, an old canal, is mostly straight, fairly wide, and runs eastward into the swamp. We pass a few alligators. Occasionally a frog jumps into the water as we approach. At the two mile mark, we take the red trail to the northeast and skirt along the northern edge of Cedar Prairie. The water is low, as it often is this time of the year. I am a little worried that we may have a hard time in places, but the first five or so miles, to where there trail folks with a side trail running to Double Lakes, is clear and easy to paddle. This area is open to boats with motors under 10 horsepower. It seems the fishermen have kept the channel clean. I hope they bring plenty of shear pins for their prop, for the lily pads would do a number on them. I’d thought about paddling up into Double Lakes, but there’s now clouds in the sky and thunder is occasionally heard in the distance. We are only halfway to Maul Hammock, where we will spend the evening on a platform above the water.
It’s good that we didn’t explore because after the turn-off to Double Lakes, the trail becomes more difficult. In places, lily pads and other weeds fill the channel and often seem to grab and hold on to your paddle. It’s a workout, but we keep paddling. The lily pads include the elegant blooming white lotus plants and some of the more bland yellow blooms. Along the sides of the path, where it is open, are hooded pitcher plants, purple swamp irises and pickerel weed with its purple torch-like flowers. At places, bladderworts, odd flowering plants that grow in water, are seen. Like the pitcher plants, they too are carnivorous. With so many insect eating plants, you’d think bugs wouldn’t be a problem. The abundance of these plants are an indication of the poor soil, so they have evolved to obtain nutrients from other sources. And there seems to be plenty of mosquitoes and biting flies to feed these plants, as we’ll later experience.
Finally, the trail turns to the southwest. We still two miles to go, but the thunder that’s been rolling for the past hour or so has moved closer. We pick up the pace, but paddling through thick vegetation is exhausting.
We leave the prairie and paddle through tall cypress and bay trees, with briers and other vegetation lining the channel. There are few lily pads to fight, but the channel is so tight that we must keep the paddle up and down, close to the sides of the boat. The thunder becomes more intense and we hear it crackle across the sky. When we enter another prairie and have a better view, clearly defined lightning bolts are popping all around. It’s beginning to rain. Soon, the bolts are striking only a few hundred yards away, followed by a nearly instantaneous boom that vibrates across the swamp. We paddle harder as the rain comes. The drops are think and heavy and drown out the sounds of the swamp. As the rain becomes heavier, the lightning moves further away. We continue to paddle harder and after an intense 20 minute downpour, that soaks us both and, since neither are us are wearing spray skirts, drops a few inches of water into our boats.
As the rain subsides, we pump out some of the water from the boat and paddle on toward the side trail to Maul Hammock platform. We enter a lake filled with lily pads that, in places, are up to our shoulders. The platform is to our left, at the edge of the lake. We head toward it as the water continues to drizzle. As we are pulling the boats up onto the platform, we notice a few stray bolts of lightning on the backside of the storm. It’ll be good to get into dry clothes, to fix a drink and dinner, and to rest. It’s been a long day as we’ve covered nearly 13 long miles.
David Halberstam, The Fifties (1993, New York: Ballantine Books, 1994), 800 pages including index’s and notes, plus 32 pages of black and white prints.
The decade was 70% completed when I was born. I have no recall of the 1950s, even though I was born late in the decade. Having now read this massive history, I now feel as if I lived through the decade.
Halberstam begins his story with Truman’s election of 1948, the Soviet test of a nuclear weapon in 1949, and the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. The short time the United States had as the leader of the world and the only nation with nuclear weapons had come to an end. We were beginning a new era, the Cold War. The uneasy situation with the Soviets would remain throughout the decade and Halberstam ends this book with the story of the U2 being shot down over Russia (which ended Eisenhower’s quest for a nuclear treaty) and the planning for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
A lot happened in the 1950s and, as Halberstam points out, much of what occurred in the 60s had its roots in the 50s. From music to Vietnam, civil rights to foreign policies, the sexual revolution to television, space and science to the rise of suburbia, McCarthy to Kerouac, the 60s (and 70s) grew out of seeds planted in the 50s. Halberstam follows these developments through vignettes, stories of what was happening. In ways, the stories can stand alone, but taken together they paint a picture of vibrant decade that too often has been portrayed as sleepy.
Many of the people whom Halberstam writes about are well known and became even more famous in the 1960s (Richard Nixon, Hugh Hefner, Marlo Brando, Marlyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Martin Luther King, among others). Others were less well known, but their ideas caught on as they developed fancy car designs, hotel and restaurant empires, housing tracks, and pushed America into a consumer culture. As I approached the end of the book, I was shocked to see one such individual that I knew personally. Kensinger Jones (pages 629-635) spent his retirement years on a farm south of Hastings, Michigan. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church in Hastings while I was pastor. Unfortunately, he was unable to be very active due to health issues, but I often visited with him and his wife Alice and enjoyed our conversations. Ken Jones was responsible for a series of Chevrolet ads that weren’t designed to “sell cars, but to sell dreams.” These ads were essentially a mini-story told visually as the consumer was encouraged to “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet.” While Ken certainly appreciated the power of the image, as Halberstam notes, he also appreciated the written word. After he could no longer attend church, he would read my sermons and often wrote notes of appreciation. And he was an author himself. I have two of his books on my shelf today.
Toward the end of Eisenhower’s presidency, there were those who suggested it was a shame there was the 23rd Amendment that kept a President from running for a third term. Eisenhower, whom it seems in Halberstam was never sure if he wanted to be President, would have nothing to do with such talk. He didn’t want a third term nor did he think anyone should be President over the age of 70. I wonder what Ike would think about our last election with both candidates over the 70 mark?
This is a wonderful book with many great stories. Even those who have no memories of the 1950s will find themselves entertained and will learn how this decade influenced future decades in America.
Yesterday’s worship service focused on our responsible use of social media. Here is a review of a book that reminds the church how we might use such media in a positive way. Click here to read yesterday’s sermon, “A Light in the World”
Meredith Gould, The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways, second edition (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2015), 180 pages, index and notes.
This easily read book encourages churches to support social media as a way to expand their communication and outreach. Sadly, it is four years old. The digital world is rapidly changing as new venues come online and changes are made to existing ones. The author, a committed Roman Catholic, writes for an ecumenical audience. She often quoting those from other Christian traditions. The forward for this edition is even written by the Reverend David Hansen, a Lutheran pastor in Texas.
The book consists of three sections with a number of helpful appendixes. In the first section, which I found most helpful, she debunks the idea that social media destroys community. Instead, it creates new types of communities. She also has a brief chapters on generational differences, learning styles, and personality types. She helpfully points out that what one person finds annoying could be what draws another person into the community (22). Such a reminder is helpful, for it is too easy to let the most outspoken critics drive us, which often leading to inefficient efforts that fail to accomplish anything. A little grace by all of us goes a long way toward accomplishing the church’s mission.
Gould provides an interesting take on the old 80/20 rule. She suggests that 80% of our content on social media should be about building community and only 20% to be about promoting and reporting on the news of the organization. I have heard similar ideas from several other sources writing about business use of social media, one of which suggested that you try to build up your reputation (or brand), offer five helpful solutions for every “sales pitch” you make. A second interesting “rule” (which she credits to Jakob Nielsen) is the 90/9/1 Rule. 90% of the people observe your social media presence, 9% occasionally participate by commenting or interacting, and 1% dominate by providing most of the content and comments. She suggested the 1% are important for they are our ambassadors/evangelists, but that we also don’t forget that we may be reaching a lot more people than those who participate. (26)
There were a number of other gleaming I found helpful in Gould’s opening section. She suggests that technology provides a means to prepare people for the sacraments, but it does not replace or provide the sacrament. (10) There is still need for real presence within the community. I also found it helpful how Gould describes the development of online communities. Online, things move approximately three times faster than in the real world. People engage much quicker and they also stay engaged shorter periods of time than they might in the face-to-face world. (31)
The second section of this book offers guidelines into developing a social media strategy and provides a basic overview for top mediums of social media: blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat. For each of these groups, she provides suggestions on ways the church might use them to further its mission. While she does not suggest that the church attempt to use all of these mediums, but to pick those which would best for the church’s situation (there are helpful questions that can guide such decisions), she is a big fan of Twitter. While she doesn’t suggest that Twitter is for everyone, she tells of her “conversion.”
The final section of the book is titled “Making Social Media Work.” There are several helpful chapters here that focus on how social media can be integrated into a church’s communication strategy, how to develop content (and share it on multiple platforms), handling burnout, best practices for social media use and how to handle online conflict. As for creating content, it needs to be short (according to her suggestion, this review is about 250 words longer than it should be J).
While I found parts of this book dated and a little elementary, Gould provides useful tools to help congregations discuss this new world in which we live. And, as for it being elementary, I must remember that may not be the case for everyone. After all, I’ve had a blog for over 15 years, have served churches with websites for 25 years, and have been on Facebook for nearly a dozen years. Others may find this book to be right at the level as they began engaging in this new online world.
I’m catching up on my reading… I keep thinking I’ll write short reviews for posts like this and I never do! These are some of the books I’ve read over the past month.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus (2003, New York: Random House/Anchor, 2004), 309 pages.
This is the first novel for Adichie, a Nigerian author. The story is set in her country during a politically unstable time. Kambili, a fifteen year old girl, is attempting to makes sense of her world. Her father is rich, generous, powerful, and a devout Catholic. In addition to factories, he owns a newspaper that isn’t afraid of speaking out against the corruption of the government. But at home he’s a tyrant. He makes his children live by a strict schedule and demands perfection. If they are not first in their class, they’re punished. He leads his family in saying their rosary and in prayers daily, but even these times are strict and rigorous. He’s highly thought of in the church, but is cruel and abusive with his children and wife. Kambili and her older brother Jana are treated terribly. In anger, he deformed one of Jaja’s fingers and at another time made his children stand barefooted in the tub while he pours hot water from a tea kettle on their feet.
Java and Kambili are granted a respite from their troubles when they are allowed to stay with their Aunty Ifeoma for a few weeks. He sends them with his driver, the trunk loaded with extra bottles of gas for her stove and sacks of rice and other foot stuff. Their aunt is also religious but she has a much more gentle faith, even praying that her family might experience laughter. She is a professor at the university, but there is unrest even there. At the aunt’s home, Kambili falls for a young priest, Father Amani. She is coming of age and is shocked to learn that all the women are interested in him. There, they also spend more time with their grandfather, whom their father has essentially disowned because he still worships in the old (non-Christian) ways.
They go back to their aunt’s after Kambili is severely beaten by her father and spends time in the hospital. This sets up the conclusion of the story, which has twist that I won’t spoil.
This book explores many themes. The tension between old traditions and newer (European) ways, the problems experienced by post-colonial countries like Nigeria, the lure of the West (Aunty Ifeoma ends up moving to America and Father Amani is sent to Germany). The book also deals with themes of abuse, corruption, and how a man like Kambili’s father can be brave and generous and evil at the same time. Adichie’s writings draw heavily on the setting and one can smell the flowers blooming and the downpours in rainy season.
I recommend this book! I think it is important for us to look into other cultures and in this era of debate over immigration, Adichie’s provides insight into what native people in a post-colonial country thinks about Europe and America.
Rick Bragg, The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table (2018), 19 hours and 17 minutes on audible.
I listened to this book, read by the author. It’s a treat to listen to Bragg read his own words as his accent brings the book alive. However, this will be a book that I also plan to buy and keep as a hard copy, for the stories are wonder and every chapter ends with a recipe or two.
Over the past twenty years, Bragg has told many of his family stories, but this book tells the stories from a different focus, the kitchen table. Every dish he writes about comes with a family story, some going back to his great-grandfather. He was a wild man who, at the request of his son, taught his daughter-in-law (Bragg’s grandmother) how to cook. While Bragg never knew his grandfather or great-grandfather, both who died before his birth, he did know his grandmother and wrote about her and her husband in his book, Ava’s Man. As he tells of hard times and the good food that sustained the family, we are treated with wonderful stories. Bragg can make his reader lust after pig feet (I remember my mother’s mother eating pickled pig feet and all it took for me to try it). Many of his stories are about how to procure pigs and cows to eat. His family was involved in some minor incidents of larceny, which long after the guilty have passed on, can be quite humorous. And then there are the chickens and how the roosters who enjoyed pecking at the ankles of his grandmother were soon destined for Sunday dinner.
Some of his stories have a familiar ring to them. He speaks of baking possum on a hardwood plank and then throwing away the possum and eating the board. I’ve heard this same story many times in cooking shad, a fish that runs up rivers along the East Coast. Shad was to be nailed to a board and then the board consumed. Another familiar story is a variation of “stone soup,” where his grandfather made “ax head soup” for a bunch of hobos. But he also had meat and some beverages to help complete their feast. It was his grandfather’s way to helping those who were in the same predicament in life as he had once been. There was a tenderness in this show of generosity.
Bragg gives inside into another southern treat, poke salad. Most people would have never heard of such thing had it not been for the song, “Poke Salad Annie.” But I remember poke salad from my grandma, my father’s mother. Although I don’t remember her fixing it, she talked about how you prepare the tender young leaves. The plant is poisonous, so one has to take the young leaves and boil it in several pots of water, throwing away the water that contains the toxins. When one has to take such care to rid toxins, it’s not worth it. I’ll stick turnip greens.
There are many other great stories around making biscuits, cornbread, greens, fish, fried chicken and deserts. This book will delight your taste buds and make you long for good home cooking.
Jack Kelly, The Edge of Anarchy: the Railroad Barons, the Gilded Age, and the Greatest labor uprising in America (2019) 11 hours and 15 minutes on Audible.
This book is in keeping with a long lists of books about America in the late 19th Century which I’ve read this past year. The book focuses on two key people, George Pullman and Eugene V. Debs. The late 19th Century was a period of unrest in this country as Kelly points out. This was the era of Coxey’s army marching on Washington, along with large strikes by workers and anarchist ready to toss a bomb (sometimes literally) into simmering conflicts.
Pullman was the founder of the “palace car empire” and a very wealthy man. Not only did he build sleeping cars, he maintained control of his cars by leasing them to the railroads instead of selling them. This way, he not only built the cars but provided staff that operated the rolling hotels and was able to shuffle cars between railroads, allowing customers to stay in a car as the train passed over multiple railroads. Pullman was innovated in many ways. He attempted to build an upscale company town. His idea was to attract better workers for building his rail cars, but it was still a town that he owned and controlled. In the 1890s, as deflation swept the nation, Pullman cut the wages of his workers, while maintaining the rents he charged in his town. During this time, he refused to cut the dividends his company paid or reduce his own and his top management’s salaries. This lead to unrest and eventually a major strike that impacted the entire nation.
Opposite Pullman was Eugene V. Debs, who was attempting to change the nature of unions from a craft guild that served particular skills (such as firemen and engineers) to a union that represented all railroad workers. As the strike at the Pullman plant grew, other railroads workers became involved, leading to disruption throughout the system. While employees refused to handle Pullman cars, the battle became greater as other traffic was delayed or stopped. Cities like Chicago were beginning to starve.
Kelly demonstrates the length the railroads went to in order to break the strike. One tool they had was the mail service. Debs and other strikers insisted that nothing was to be done to disturb the mail, which was a federal offense. Mail cars on passenger trains were generally at the front of the train, while the Pullman cars, which had to be available to be transferred from one line to the other, were at the back of trains. This allowed railroad workers, who were refusing to handle Pullman cars, to easily push them off onto sidings while allowing the railroad to continue operating. Knowing this, train officials starts making up the train, putting the mail cars behind the Pullmans, forcing the union’s hand. Eventually, the federal government was able to use the excuse of mail disruption to call in the army to break the strike. Soldiers who had been used to keep the peace in the West (or fighting the “Indian Wars”) were deployed to cities like Chicago and Sacramento.
Kelly tells the story of the strike and the era in an interesting way that keeps the reader engaged.
This was originally posted in my other blog and written in January 2012, shortly after making this trip.
The air is crisp and Orion has dropped into the western sky as we make our way into the Flagstaff train station. The waiting room is nearly filled with passengers and baggage awaiting the eastbound arrival of the Southwest Chief. It’s 5:15 AM and we’re fifteen minutes before the train is supposed to arrive. I’ve parked the rental car in the city lot across the tracks, placed the keys in the drop box and took a seat on the old wood benches. The train is running fifteen minutes late. Outside one of Warren Buffet’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains of containers race through town, on its way to Los Angeles and then to a ship to where ever. A few minutes later another train approaches from the west, heading east, with containers that probably originated somewhere in Asia, most-likely China. At 5:41, the time the train was to have departed Flagstaff, but we learn it’ll be another twenty minutes before it arrives.
At six, everyone begins collecting their luggage. The station agent instructs those in coaches to head to the right and those with sleeper car accommodations to go left. We make our way to the 430 car where an attendant takes our tickets, helps us aboard and directs us to our assigned berths. “The diner opens in 20 minutes,” we’re informed. At 6:10, the engineer blows his horn, signaling that it’s time to go. A few seconds later, the train begins to move into the darkness of the Southwest. In my compartment, I stare out into the dark sky as we leave the city. I nod off for a few seconds, but it’s hard to get back to sleep, so mostly I look out the window. To the southeast the sky is just a bit lighter and fewer of the stars can be seen. Slowly a thin red line is seen on the horizon and it gradually grows into a band of red. I make out the shape of what few trees grow in this country, the utility poles and lines of fence posts. As it becomes lighter, I notice I can tell the difference between the types of brush.
A little before 7 AM, I head to the dining car for breakfast. The train pulls into Winslow, stopping only for a minute to let off and pick up passengers. I’ve been through this town several times and have yet to see “a girl in a flatbed Ford.” The waitress, a young Hispanic woman with a bright smile, brings coffee and informs us of the day’s special. I decide to have the omelet made with three eggs, spinach, onions and tomatoes with a side of grits and cinnamon raisin toast. It’s a filling breakfast and the chef liberally sprinkled oregano on the omelet, giving it a nice spicy taste. While at breakfast, the sun breaks the horizon and its rays immediately light up the desert floor. Along the interstate, silver trailers pulled by semis reflect the light. Fence posts and utility poles cast long shadows. As the sun rises, the shadows are reeled in. We pass numerous freight trains, mostly hauling containers, but there’s one with piggy back trailers, and unit train of coal cars, another with closed hoppers hauling grain and another of tankers, hauling chemicals.
Before I realize it, the train has cut through the Petrified Forest National Park and is running along the Pesrco River as it makes its way to the New Mexico border. Although Interstate 40 parallels this section of track, it was originally Route 66, the highway made famous by Steinbeck in his Depression era novel, The Grapes of Wrath. When I was in school in Pittsburgh, I met a retired dentist who told me about his family’s trip out west in 1923. The man was in his 80s at the time I knew him, but was only about ten when his dad, who was a physician, decided to take off the entire summer. He packed up the family in a large car he described as looking like something off the Beverly Hillbillies set. As this was before road trips were popular and motels and service stations dotted the landscape; the family had to provide for themselves. They mostly camped at night and cooked their own food (carrying tents and a stove). He said that from the time they left Kansas City until they arrived in Los Angeles, the only paved roads were in towns. They had to serve as their own mechanics, too, often fixing half-dozen or so flats a day. As they boiled under the hot sun of the Southwest, they complained to their dad as to why they were driving while others were zooming past their car, riding comfortably in the sleek trains along the Atkinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Route.
The train I’m on was the descendant of the Santa Fe Super Chief, which was introduced in the 1930s. At its time, the Super Chief was luxury on rail, featuring all Pullman sleeper cars powered by diesel engines. This was the train of Hollywood Stars and would later give the framework for the movie “Silver Streak,” which although it used a different name, followed the Santa Fe’s route between LA and Chicago and featured the comic antics of the young Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder.
We reach Gallup at 9 AM. From the sounds of the announcement, it sounds like the train crew is having problems with folks getting off the train to smoke and holding up operations. Gallup is just a quick stop to drop off and pick up passengers, but many have jumped onto the platform where they can legally smoke. The conductor wants to make up time and he tells people to only get off the train at scheduled stops. Since Amtrak went non-smoking twenty-some years ago, they have encouraged people who need to puff to take advantage of longer stops where they service the train. The next such stop is Albuquerque.
After Gallup, we climb. The wheels of the train squeak in the curves as they scrape against the side of the rails. To our north is a mesa that rises several hundred feet, the red Navajo sandstone is rich in the morning sun. To our south are lava fields, with the broken black rock only rising maybe fifty feet. Occasionally, in valley of sage is an ancient cottonwood, its huge trunk sprouting hundreds of scrawny limbs that twist every-which-way. This is Native American country. There are traditional southwest adobe housings along with many trailer and manufactured homes. Also, along what was once Route 66, are the ruins of motels and restaurants and trinket shops. For a hundred miles or so out of Gallup, the tracks parallel Interstate 40, alternating between being just north or south of the freeway. About fifty miles out of Albuquerque, the tracks drop to the southeast, before heading north along the upper waters of the Rio Grande. For the next three hundred miles, the tracks head north, paralleling Interstate 25.
During the morning, my daughter practices her violin and plays with the keyboard on her ipad to figure out the notes to a favorite song. I spend my time writing in a journal, looking out the window and reading Janisse Ray’s book, Drifting into Darien: A Personal and Natural History of the Altamaha River. No one is in a hurry.
Our reservation for lunch in the dining car is at 12:30 PM. The nice thing about a sleeper is that all meals are included, which means I eat more than I should. I have a veggie burger, made out of black beans. It’s pretty good. Included are chips, ice tea and desert. I have a cup of raspberry sorbet.
We arrive in Albuquerque on-time, having made up nearly thirty minutes. Albuquerque is a long stop, nearly forty minutes, as the conductors and engineers change (the car attendants and dining car attendants remain the same the entire trip) and the train’s locomotives are fueled while the water tanks in the passenger cars are filled. During the stop here, I get out and walk up and down the tracks. On the edge of the tracks are Native American vendors selling jewelry and woven rugs and hats. We leave Albuquerque at 12:10, right on time. As we leave the city, the tracks take us through back yards that all seem to contain a wood-fired adobe beehive oven (something I’d always wanted). The houses all have satellite dishes. Some are traditional southwest looking homes, but many are not.
The Lamy station is the transfer point for those whose destination is Santa Fe. Ironically, although the famous town became the name of a railroad, the main line never made it to Santa Fe. The mountains were too steep to put the tracks into the town, so the town of Lamy was built. A short-line still branch off the mainline here, but those passengers desiring to get to Santa Fe, there is a bus. The train snakes through steep cuts in the pale orange sandstone as we leave Lamy. At times, the walls are so close to the tracks that if a window was open, one could reach out and touch the rock. Our progress is slow as the grade is steep as we move into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, climbing up the Glorieta Mesa. According to the timetable, it’ll take us nearly two hours to cover the 65 miles between Lamy and Las Vegas. The snow is also deeper, pinion and gamble oaks are now mixed in with the juniper. The late summer blooms on the rabbit brush is now brown.
Once we reach the Glorieta sidings, the track isn’t quite as steep and the train picks up speed. The westbound Southwest Chief passes us; it’ll be in LA tomorrow morning. I head to the lounge/observation car where I spend the afternoon, looking at the scenery (here I can see both sides of the tracks) while writing and talking to fellow passengers. We parallel Interstate 25; when the tracks are level we make good time and when they are steep, we slow down. Here, on top of the mesa, there are fewer cuts into the rocks and as the train snakes, we can see the engines up front and the coach cars on the back end.
Las Vegas, New Mexico isn’t as glitzy as its named counterpart in Nevada. But it’s an older town along the Santa Fe Trail. Next to the typical mission style train station Castendada, an old hotel and “Harvey House.” In the days before dining cars, the trains would stop here and the folks at the “Harvey House” were assigned the task of feeding the entire train as quickly as possible in order that they could get back on the road. Leaving Las Vegas at 3:15, the tracks carry us along high plateau, mostly grasslands with the occasional windmill and ranch house. The sun is now dropping in the southwestern sky as the magic hour approaches. In the winter, the sun seems to hang on a little longer and everything is bathed in soft light. The brown grass turns golden. Yesterday, at this time, we were driving across Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, through the polygamous towns of Hillsdale and Colorado City as we were heading to Flagstaff to catch the train. Canaan Mountain, in its various bands of colored sandstone, was beautiful in the low light. Today’s landscape isn’t quite as dramatic but it’s still beautiful as the sun casts warm hues across the plateau. The sun finally gives up and drops behind the mountains a few minutes before we arrive in Raton.
Raton is a longer stop and I get off the train and walk up and down the platform. It’s colder, now that the sun has set and we’re in higher elevation. In the summer, thousands of Boy Scouts get off here in order to visit the Philmont Scout Ranch, for a week or two of hiking in the Desert Mountains of the Southwest. I’m told that having a large scout group on the train can be a trying experience for the rest of the travelers, but we don’t have to worry about it as its winter. I’ve taken this route once before, during the summer of 1993, but since I had a sleeper, I was spared the experience as the scouts onboard were all in coach. When we leave Raton, we’re on some of the steepest track in the country. We’re five cars behind the locomotives, yet can hear them groan as they work hard to pull us up the grade. At times it seems we’re going no faster than I can walk. The track is so steep that a marble dropped on the floor would race to the back of the car. It takes nearly an hour to go from Raton, New Mexico to Trinidad, Colorado, a distance of only 24 miles. At the summit, the tracks are at 7588 feet, the highest point along the Santa Fe line. We rush through the Raton Tunnel and then begin our descent. But even the downhill is steep and curvy and the engineer maintains a slow descent. Its pitch dark by the time we reach Trinidad.
Our dinner reservations are at 6 PM and since we don’t have enough for a full table, we are seated with a solo traveler who introduces himself as “Dave, a hillbilly from West Virginia.” He’s quite a talker, telling about working in the coal mines as a kid and then leaving the state and doing various jobs around the country including working behind the scenes in the movies. He’d gotten on in Santa Fe and is heading back to his home country where he’s planning on retiring. For dinner, I have a chipotle beef tip with apricot sauce, roasted vegetables, rice and a salad. I’m not a big beef person, unless the meat has been spiced up some. This was delicious! After dinner, the train stopped in La Junita, Colorado. We’re fifteen minutes early. Since the engineers and conductors change here; we have nearly a 30 minute break. But it’s cold, 14 degrees, so after walking the length of the train a few times, I seek the shelter of the car, where our attendant is busy putting down the beds. I’d talked to him earlier today. He’s been an attendant for Amtrak for 35 years. He started working with them during the summer, when he was a grad student working on a photojournalism degree. He stayed with it, taking on average three six-day trips a month (a trip from LA to Chicago with a layover day and then back to LA is considered a 6 day trip).
Through this section, I have a good data signal and spend the next hour updating my facebook page and reading and commenting on blogs. We stop briefly in Lamar, to let off and receive passengers. As we leave, I put away my laptop and pull the covers over me. Outside, it’s cold and snowy. The stars are bright and Orion and his dog seem to be just outside my window. We pass a number of grain elevators and enter the Central Time Zone. It’s now 10:30 PM and I call it a night.
I sleep well, waking up only once, at 5:15 AM. We’re at Topeka, then. The station is on the other side of the train, and from my window I look out at a rather sizable rail yard. Freight trains are being assembled. The lights are so much that I can barely see the stars, but I pick out what I think are the two bright stars that make up the arrow in the archer’s bow, but then realize I shouldn’t be seeing that constellation this time of the year and that it must be Cygnus the Swan. As we begin to move out, I fall back asleep. At 7 AM, the announcer comes on and says we’re in Kansas City, a fifteen minute stop. I pull on a gym suit and walk outside for fresh air. When the engine whistles and the conductor calls “all aboard,” I jump back onboard and go to the diner for breakfast. This morning I take it easy, enjoying a bowl of steel cut oatmeal along with some fruit and toast and, of course, coffee. We’re seated with a woman from Royal Oak, Michigan, who has been visiting family in Kansas. She’ll be on the same train we’ll take out of Chicago, although she’ll have two and a half more hours of travel, arriving at her station at midnight (if the train is on time). As we eat, we cross the Missouri River. A unit train of grain hoppers passes us, heading west. There is no snow here in the Midwest, just brown fields and bare trees. The tracks cut through the northwest corner of Missouri and the southeast corner of Iowa, as we race along through farmland and wooded areas and the occasional town. Broom sledge, brown and dry, line the tracks thought much of this section. We stop in La Plata, Missouri. This is a small station and we have to make two stops, one to let off the sleeping car passengers and again to let off those riding in the coaches on the back end of the train. Over half of the passengers appear to be Amish in their traditional dress.
As we approach Fort Madison, Iowa, along the Mississippi River, we pass the factory where they make the large electrical windmills. Hundreds of blades are stored around the buildings and some of them are on secured to flat rail cars, awaiting shipment. Fort Madison is a “smoke stop” and I get off to get some fresh air (there seems to be only one smoker in our car and he walks far away from the train to light up). I walk around a bit, but we are only stopped for a few minutes before the engineer blows the whistle and the “all aboard” call is made. It’s okay because they have already called the 11:45 AM dining reservations (it’s only 11:15). We’re about 10 minutes behind schedule, but all bets are on that we’ll make that back up as we race into Chicago. In the dining car, as we pull out of the station, the tracks parallel the Mississippi River. A paddle-wheeled riverboat is tied up at the docks and I pose to get a shot when we go by, but just before we get there a pair of orange, black and yellow Burlington Northern Santa Fe locomotives on the next track blocks my view. It’s a unit of cars filled with automobiles. Soon, the tracks make a right hand bend and we’re on the trestle over the Mississippi and into Illinois, the final state of our journey. This is farm country. The dirt is black and the fields of corn and soybeans are fallow in the winter. Along the edges of the fields are farm houses and barns.
For lunch, I have the chef’s special. I am not normally a big macaroni and cheese fan, but his mac and cheese includes cauliflower, corn, garlic and chipotle sauce. It was good and has a spicy bite to it. The meal is especially filling since it includes a salad and a dinner roll. When we leave, we say goodbye to the dining staff as they’ve treated us well this trip.
Our first stop in Illinois is Galesburg, a railroad town. Tracks merge here before heading into Chicago. At the station, many of the Amish get off the train along with a few other passengers. Next to the station is the Galesburg Rail Museum. Someday I need to make a stop here. On display is a Burlington Route steamer with a couple of Pullman cars. There have been a number of old steam locomotives on display in the various towns we’ve traveled through. In this part, they’re always the over-sized Burlington Route or CB&Q (Chicago, Burlington and Quincy) steamers designed for fast transportation across the plains. On the other side of Kansas City, they’re Atkinson, Topeka & Santa Fe locomotives, most of which are smaller and better on the curves. Riding through this country of farms and small cities, we see the backyard of America, filled with clothes lines and swing sets. Many of the streets that run out from the tracks have wooden two-storied box-shaped homes and are lined with trees. But it doesn’t quite look right as there is no snow on the ground, which is usual for January.
We pull into Chicago’s Union Station on time, at 3 PM. We’ve covered 1699 miles in 33 hours, having traveled through deserts and mountain, through reservations and many small towns and a few larger cities, crossed the great rivers and the rich farmland of America’s heartland!
With a three hour layover, we head to the Great Room. It’s still decorated for Christmas. We camp out on the wooden bench seats. As I finish reading Ray’s book, Drifting into Darien, a police officer stops to ask what I’m reading. I try to explain the book and he asks if it’s like the book they made into a movie with Brad Pitts about two boys and their father a Lutheran minister in Montana. “You mean, A River Runs Through It?” I ask. “That’s it,” he says. I correct him saying that the dad wasn’t Lutheran but Presbyterian and explain the differences between the books. Although I am enjoying Ray’s writing, it’s nothing like MacLean’s masterpiece. I tell him a bit about Ray and her writing about nature in the South. He acknowledges the number of great southern writers and notes the rising number of southern crime fiction authors. I admit I haven’t read much in that genre unless Carl Haaisen’s writing could be classified in the genre. I’m surprised that he knows Haaisen, and he asks if I’ve read Thomas Cook. I haven’t and he tells me about a crime fiction book Cook wrote that’s sent in Birmingham, during the days of Bull O’Conner. As we talk, he seems to know a lot about Cook and the setting and I ask if he knows Cook and he admits that he’s talked to him a number of times, saying that he plays in the crime fiction genre. When I ask if he’s published anything, he acknowledges that he’s shopping a novel, but has a non-fiction book in print titled Just the Facts: True Tales of Cops and Criminals.
At five, an hour before departure, we head into the crowded waiting room. I talk a bit with an Amish man who’s just travelled here from central Pennsylvania to see a couple families off to Mexico. At 5:30, the make the first call for the Wolverine, the train that’ll take us to Kalamazoo and home. We board, climbing up iced-over stairs. The train is crowded. We start slowly, going through the maze of tracks south of Chicago, before circling around the south shore of Lake Michigan. It’s a short trip, just two and a half hours (plus another hour due to the change of time zones). At Niles, I call my friends where I’d left my truck. They tell me they’ll be there at the station. It’ll be nice to be home as I hear it’s been snowing. At 9:30, right on time, the train stops in Kalamazoo and we carefully make our way down the icy steps. After a thirty minute drive, our trip will be over.
These questions and answers on the Kirkin come from Elder Bruce Ezell, an elder at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church (North Carolina). It was written as a primer for their Kirkin’ so that everyone (Scots and non-Scots alike) could understand the symbolism behind the service. I have slightly modified this list to fit our situation on Skidaway Island. This program is republished thanks to the permission from Laurinburg Presbyterian Church. Photos are mine and have been taken at past Kirkin’ services at Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church. -Jeff Garrison
Is the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan, an auld Scottish Rite? Many people are under assumption that the “Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan” is an ancient Scottish Church Ceremony. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. While based on Scottish legend and folklore, this ceremony is distinctly American. It traces its roots to the life and ministry of The Reverend Dr. Peter Marshall, a Scottish émigré. Dr. Marshal was a prominent minister in the Presbyterian Church, who served as the Chaplain to the United States Senate at the advent of World War II. In April 1941, while serving as the Pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Dr. Marshall titled one of his sermons “Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan.” This name soon became attached to church services that celebrate with pride their Scottish heritage. While more commonly celebrated by Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches, today this celebration is utilized by a variety of Christian denominations for Scottish heritage events.
What was the origin of the Tartan? The exact origin of the Scots’ love of the tartan is shrouded in the mists of ancient times. According to one common and widely held legend, St. Margaret introduced the use of the Tartan for clan identification purposes. This was a way of achieving unity (a rare commodity in Scottish History) within diversity. The use of the tartan in a generic sense was for all Scots. The particular designs for clan and familial identity did not begin, however, until the nineteenth century. Margaret was a gentlewoman of noble birth, who planned a religious vocation. She was persuaded, however, by Malcolm, King of Scots, to become his queen. Malcolm was a boorish man; he was uncultured and illiterate. Margaret softened his harsh ways, and led him to be a better king. It was said of Margaret that she “admonished the wicked to become good and the good to become better.” She remains a revered figure in Scottish history.
Why was the tartan banned? The Scots and the English are very different people, with different cultural origins and different traditions. Even today, a Scot may speak, with a twinkle in his eye, of England as “the auld enemy.” During the long course of Scottish history, the Scots and the English were to make war against one another many times. For the Scots, there were times of freedom, beginning with the revolts of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, and times of subjugation. The last Scottish rebellion began in 1745, and ended in 1746 with the Battle of Culloden Moor, wherein the Scots led by “Bonnie adopted a policy of “cultural genocide.” This was known as the “Act of Proscription” of George II. The wearing of the kilt, the use of the Gaelic language, the ancient “clan system,” and all other elements of Scottish culture and nationalism were banned! These acts were meant to strip the Highland Scots of their cultural attributes, which further distanced them from their English speaking conquerors. While these bans remained in effect, memories of “things distinctly Scottish” were all but lost. Like warm embers from a long-dead fire, these Scottish traditions remained alive only in the memories of ancient grandparents. According to legend, during these trying times the Scottish people would secretly carry a small piece of their clan’s tartan to church on Sundays. Thus when the minister ended the service with the Benediction, that tartan was blessed and God’s favor was bestowed upon the Scottish people. King George III repealed the Act of Proscription in 1782. It was not until the 19th Century and the Reign of Queen Victoria, however that a renaissance of Scottish culture began. The Queen, strongly influenced by the romantic writings of Sir Walter Scott, sought to revive the wearing of the kilt and other Scottish traditions.
Why is the St. Andrew’s Cross Flag a symbol of Scotland? A white “X” shaped cross upon a blue field is known as the St. Andrew’s Cross flag. This standard is a symbol of Scotland. St. Andrew was one of Christ’s disciples. Andrew (known from only eight passages of scripture) is one of the more appealing figures of the twelve apostles. He seems to have possessed a boundless enthusiasm for bringing people to meet Jesus, yet he was content to remain in the background. According to a Christian (probably apocryphal) legend that dates from only the 14th Century, Andrew was executed. He was bound to a “Cross Saltire” (i.e: an “X” shaped cross) and crucified. In the 4th Century, some believe, his relics were transported to Scotland. St. Andrew is considered the patron saint of Scotland. St. Andrew’s Day dinners are commonplace among those who love Scotland, including the tradition of cooking “X” shaped shortbread cookies.
Why is the Rampant Lion Flag used at Scottish celebrations? A flag featuring a red “lion rampant” upon a yellow field is the royal ensign of Scotland, and thus used on state occasions when royalty is present. This royal standard is also flown from government buildings on official occasions. This flag, however, has recently been approved by the Lord Lyon for use at Scottish heritage and athletic events.
Why is the thistle a symbol of Scotland? Once upon a time, a long long time ago, the Scots were about to be invaded by their “auld and ancient enemies,” the Vikings. Once they landed, all Scots knew the Vikings would be hard to stop. If only their landing sites might be located, however, there was the slim hope that the Viking warriors might be stopped on the landing beaches. Alas, a fog drifted into the area and the Scots gave up all hope of identifying the invasion site. About this time, a barefooted Viking warrior set his foot upon a thistle and gave forth a loud cry. The Scots then rushed to the sound of the footsore warrior, and defeated the Viking force. Thus, it might be said that the thistle, a lowly weed, saved Scotland! As the Welsh revere their leek, the Scots revere the thistle. The thistle was used by the early Kings of Scotland as their personal heraldic crest and is borne by the Arms of the Realm and by a number of ancient Scottish Clans and families as a part of their individual coats of arms. In 1687, James II instituted the Order of the Thistle as a distinctly Scottish order of Knighthood. This order is now the oldest of all surviving British Orders.
Why are there drawings of wild geese on some ancient Christian drawings from Scotland? The wild goose was the Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it was the freedom of the wild geese that stirred the island-bound imaginations of the folk who lived in coastal Scotland to think of the Holy Spirit in this manner.
What is “The Kirk?” In Britain and Europe, Presbyterian Churches are usually known as “Reformed Churches.” In Scotland, however, our tradition is the established and sanctioned Church of the Government of Scotland. Thus our Christian tradition is known as “The Church of Scotland” [in the same manner that the “Church of England” is the Anglican (i.e. Episcopal) Church. The Church of Scotland is commonly known simply as “The Kirk.” The British people have always had a marvelous ability to compromise. While in England, Queen Elizabeth is considered as “Head of the Church of England.” While in residence in Scotland, however, Her Majesty is considered a member of the Church of Scotland, and is attended by Chaplains from The Kirk. Jesus Christ is considered the Head of the Church of Scotland.
What is a “Beadle,” and what service did he render the Kirk? During the Middle Ages and through the reformation, Bibles were rare among the common people. The Bible of the Kirk (i.e. the Church) was a treasured possession. The intrinsic value of the Holy Scriptures and the ever present possibility of theft led to the establishment of a special lay office known as the “beadle.” The beadle was usually elected by the Kirk Session, and he served for an indefinite period of time. The chief duty of the beadle was to preserve and protect the Kirk’s Holy Bible. His other duties sometimes included collecting fines, the summoning of accused parties to trial (before Session Court), and the issuing decrees of the Kirk throughout the parish. In some traditional Presbyterian Churches today, the beadle begins the worship service by carrying the Holy Bible ceremoniously into the sanctuary. On such occasions, the people rise in respect for the Holy Book and its Scriptures. The parishioners take their seats after the beadle has opened the Bible and prepared the pulpit for the advent of the minister.
Why does one observe Celtic Crosses in Presbyterian Churches? Throughout Scotland and Ireland, one may observe ancient Celtic Crosses in Churches and Christian Cemeteries. These crosses feature a scalloped cross, which is superimposed upon a circle. Modern Celtic Crosses feature long arms, but the ancient Celtic Crosses had short, stubby arms. The imposition of the cross upon a circle represents “Christ’s dominion over all the world.” Most Celtic Crosses feature elaborate decorations of intertwining vines and flowers rendered in bas-relief along their edges. If one traces these intertwining vines, you discover they are generally interconnected one to another.
Why are Psalms sung during the Scottish Heritage Worship Service? The Scots were among the last Christian Churches to adopt the singing of hymns! Until recently, the members of The Kirk sang only metrical Psalms for their church services. Indeed, the singing of hymns was considered by more than one wizened old Scot as the “invention of the devil.” Metrical Psalms are Psalms slightly altered to fit the meter of the melody. The musical psalms for today’s worship service are metrical Psalms, or music inspired by a particular Psalm. In the 18th and early 19th Centuries, American Churches along the frontier did not have Psalters from which to sing. They would have a literate person, known as the precentor “line” the Psalm. This leader would sing one line of the Psalm, and then the congregation would follow singing the same line. Then the leader would sing (or “line”) the second line. This procedure would continue until the entire Psalm has been sung. If there was no sermon on that day (as ministers were rare on the frontier), the worship service was simply known as a “Sam Sing” (sic.). Psalm 23, set to the tune “Crimond,” deserves special note. It is to the Scots what “God Bless America” is to Americans. It is sung at almost all memorial occasions in Scotland.
For the original publication of these notes, click here.
Easter Sunrise Services are held at Landings Harbor Marina this Sunday (April 21) at 6:30 PM. Below is an article that appeared in The Skinnie, March 16, 2018.
The Sun Will Come Up
The wake-up call came at 4:30 AM Sunday morning. I am staying at a hotel right across from Old Salem in present-day Winston Salem. Washing the sleep out of my eyes, I hear the music playing from the street down below. It was been warm when I left home in eastern North Carolina, but a cold snap descended on Saturday. I dress as warmly as possible, pulling on multiple layers. I realize I don’t even have gloves with me.
By 5 AM, I am outside the hotel, walking with strangers, heading to Home Moravian Church. On most street corners, we pass brass quartets playing Easter music, calling people to come. By the time I reached the church, thousands are gathered, waiting in front of the steps of the church. A cold wind blows and the dark sky spits snow. In the distance, we hear the brass playing. We shuffle around trying to stay warm and waited. The anticipation of the crowd is high as we have all gathered to participate in the second oldest Easter sunrise service in North America. The honor for the oldest sunrise tradition belongs to the Moravians of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who began holding such services in 1754.
It was still dark when a light comes on inside the church foyer. Then massive wooden doors fly open and the pastor steps out, raising his arms and shouting, “Christ is Risen!” We respond, “He is Risen Indeed!” The Pastor and his assistants step out of the church and we follow them down Church Street to God’s Acre, the community’s cemetery. God’s Acre is actually many acres, large enough to hold the thousands who have gathered. We pack in and wait as the sky becomes lighter gray. A few stray flakes of snow still fall.
Then it starts. All those brass quartets unite and they march in from behind us playing Easter hymns. As they move to the front, we stand and began to sing. The ministers pray and read scripture. The pastor offers a brief message about the hope of the resurrection. Somewhere behind the gray clouds, the sun rises. A new day begins. The benediction is pronounced and we head our separate ways.
Arriving back in the hotel, I stop by the restaurant for breakfast. The place is packed with those coming back from the service. The poor lone waitress is running around trying to serve everyone. Most of us just want hot coffee and are willing to wait to eat as we warm up. She apologizes and says the management had forgotten that it’s Easter Sunday and hadn’t scheduled anyone else to work the shift. Several of us help out, taking turns making and serving coffee as she takes and delivers our orders.
The Moravians of Old Salem have been celebrating Easter Sunrise at God’s Acre since 1772, picking up on a practice that begin in Europe in 1732. In the town of Hernhut, which is now in the Czech Republic, the young men of the church gathered in the cemetery during the night and waited for dawn by singing hymns of the faith. The services are simple with hymns, prayers, scripture and a brief message that is all done to the glory of God. The sunrise service is now an established tradition within the Moravian Church and one that has been adopted by many other Christian denominations.
Of course, those Moravian young men were not the first to be up at sunrise on Easter. That distinction goes to the women described in the gospels who headed out before sunrise to anoint Jesus body before the tomb was sealed. They were shocked to find the grave open and Jesus’ body missing. As the events of that day unfold, they learn of his resurrection, an event that gives hope to Christians to this day.
I first attended an Easter sunrise service as a high school student. It was held in a cemetery off Greenville Sound, east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Unlike the year I was at Old Salem, the skies were clear. And just as the sun broke over the horizon, its rays reflecting off the water and bring warmth to the marsh grass, several ducks took the skies, their calls and the flapping of their wings drowning out the voice of the preacher. Even they celebrated the new day. In the years before seminary, I would attend many such services at a variety of locations. The message was always the same. Christ has risen!
For obvious reasons, sunrise services seem to be more popular in the American South, but as a seminary student pastor, I brought the tradition to Virginia City, Nevada. There, we gathered on “Boot Hill” on a cold morning. The temperature was in the mid-20s and the wind was blowing hard over Mount Davidson. But we witnessed a glorious sunrise, the rays racing up Six Mile Canyon. Afterwards, we enjoyed coffee and warm pastries back at the church.
In my first call to a church in Ellicottville, New York, a community known for skiing, we partnered with Holiday Valley, the local ski resort, to host the service on a deck outside a clubhouse. It was even colder than at Virginia City, but most of us were dressed appropriately, wearing ski bids and parkers. A young woman volunteered to provide music on a keyboard. We started with a song and were going to close with the traditional hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” As we began to sing, she missed note after note and I looked over to see what was wrong. The keyboard had frosted over between hymns and her fingers were sticking to the keys. Afterwards, with hot drinks and donuts inside the lodge, we had a laugh over the situation. The next year, she brought a blanket to lay over the keyboard.
This year, Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church will hold a Sunrise Service for islanders at Landing Harbor Marina on Easter Sunday, April 1, beginning at 6:45 AM. Sunrise is at 7:12 AM. We shouldn’t have to worry about fingers sticking to the keyboard or shuffling around to stay warm in freezing weather, but you may want to come prepared with bug spray, a jacket and a lounge chair. We’ll gather in the darkness and the service will conclude shortly after the sunrise. If it is raining, the service will move to Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church, located at 50 Diamond Causeway. There, in Liston Hall, we can experience a virtual sunrise on a video monitor while enjoying dry conditions. Last year, a large crowd enjoyed a glorious Sunrise and everyone is invited again this year.
For more information, call Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church at 598-0151 or go to the website, www.sipres.org.
Arthur C. Brooks, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America for the Culture of Contempt (HarperCollins, 2019), 243 pages, index and notes.
In this year’s January Series from Calvin College, I heard Brooks speak. Much of his presentation, it appears, was taken from this book which was released in mid-March. I’m glad it is in print for I was impressed with his talk and liked how he addresses the lack of civility in American political discourse. What bothers Brooks isn’t anger. Anger can be effective in the right circumstances. Nor is he bothered by arguments. That, too, can be productive. He doesn’t even want us to tolerate each other for that seems to be a way to look down on others. Brooks argues for us to love everyone, especially our enemies. What frightens Brooks about American society is the rise of contempt for “the other.” When we get to a point where we wish our enemies would disappear or go away, it’s easy to consider them less than human. Then we have a real problem. Brooks’ points out how this is a problematic for both sides of the political spectrum in America today. Looking back at the 2016 Presidential election, he points to Clinton’s comments about the “deplorable” folks behind Trump, and to Trumps many comments in which he belittled or attacked the dignity of “others.”
Brooks is an economist and the director of the American Enterprise Institute, which he describes as a “center-right” think tank. He often draws from economic principals in a making a case for having a diversity of opinions at the table. He believes in competition in both the business world as well as in the marketplace of ideas. When there are more ideas and choices being discussed and debated, the chances of us coming up with a better solution increases. But when voices are silenced and viewed with contempt, we will all lose because the best ideas may be kept from rising to the top.
Brooks begins his book by examining the rise of contempt in our culture. He draws from many fields to make his case. He insist that those on both sides of most arguments have values and to treat the other side as someone without values is the beginning of a culture of contempt. Our problem intensifies (and is undermined) when we use our values as weapons. He suggests that we all make friends and really listen to those with whom we disagree. Not only will this help us sharpen our own views, we might learn something. He also encourages his readers who feel they don’t like the other side to “fake it,” noting that just forcing a smile can help change our own outlook and help us to relate to others.
The book ends with five rules in which we can resist the culture of contempt in our society.
Resist “the powerful” (especially those on your side of the debate). When you just listen to the politician or the news media you agree with, you are easily manipulated. He encourages us to stand up to those who belittle others, especially those with whom we agree. It’s easy to stand up to those with whom we generally disagree.
Get out of our bubbles and listen to and meet those from the other side. How else will we hear diverse opinions?
Say no to contempt and treat everyone with love and respect even when it is difficult.
Disagree better. Be a part of a healthy competition of ideas.
Tune out: disconnect from unproductive debates. Brooks sees social media as a problem for our democracy as we find ourselves in constant debates in which no one changes their minds. Sabbaticals from such dialogue can be helpful to our own well being.
Brooks is a committed Roman Catholic and while his faith is displayed throughout the book, he also demonstrates his openness to others. He is a good friend of the Dalia Lama from whom he has learned much. At the end of the book, he encourages his readers to become “missionaries” as we help with love and kindness to provide an alternative for the contempt in our society. This is a useful and timely book. I highly recommend it and hope it becomes a best seller. Interestingly, Brooks is donating all the profits for his book to the American Enterprise Institute. That’s an example of someone living the missionary life!