I write, as I must, from the point of view of a country person, a member of a small rural community that has been dwindling rapidly since the end of World War II. Only the most fantastical optimism could ignore the possibility that my community is doomed–that is was doomed by the overwhelming victory of industrialism over agrarianism (both North and South) in the Civil War and the history both subsequent and consequent to it.  It may be that my community–its economy, its faith, its local knowledge, its affection for itself and its place–will dwindle on for another generation or two and then disappear to be replaced by a commuters’ suburb.  If it is doomed, then I have no doubt that much else is doomed also, for I cannot see how a nation, a society, or a civilization can live while its communities die.

Wendell Berry
From “Private Property and the Common Wealth” (1995)


Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3: 12-14


There is no distinctive church architecture today.   These days churches can’t be identified by the stained glass, steeples, altars, etc. that have been characteristic of “traditional” protestant church buildings. 

Part of the reason for that, of course, is that there are fewer and fewer folks sitting in pews on Sunday.  As church attendance plummets it seems that only the “megachurches” and “seeker-friendly” churches are hanging on.  Those churches do not typically occupy traditional structures.  Today’s megachurches are more likely to be in large non-descript buildings (on what will be often referred to as their “campus”).  Seeker-friendly churches are more likely to be in coffee shops or old movie theaters.

Whatever characteristic church architecture history records for these times,it isn’t likely to look like the churches folks of my generation grew up in.

This seems like something new, but, at least among Methodists, it isn’t. 

Reading Ted Campbell’s book on Wesleyan beliefs I discovered this:

In this period (the late 19th Century), Methodists began to adopt a variety of architectural forms, and the variety of forms displays the ecclesiological tensions examined previously in this chapter….One form that Methodists began to embrace in the later nineteenth century was that of the public auditorium, a building that looked more like a theater or music hall than a sacred space and in fact was intended to attract persons who might feel uncomfortable in more traditional church architectures….The auditorium became so popular among Methodists by the end of the nineteenth century many had come to use the term “auditorium” to refer to their worship space.

I’d never known that.  A hundred years ago Methodists were building the 19th century equivalent of today’s “seeker sensitive” churches and were calling their churches “auditoriums.”

But here’s what especially got my attention.  Campbell identfies as an example of one such building the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Of course I knew the Ryman as the Mother Church of Country Music, the location of the Grand Ole Opry at its peak, but I had no idea it had once been a Methodist “church.” 

The Grand Ole Opry was broadcast from the Ryman for over 30 years.  The most famous performance there was probably Hank Williams’ debut in 1949 at age 25.  He was a literal show-stopper and was called out for six encores of “Lovesick Blues.”  Because of his heavy drinking Hank was fired by the Opry three years later and his membership was revoked.  A few months later he was dead.  Of course all the country greats played the Opry and millions of families huddled around their radios every Saturday night to listen to their heroes.  I now know that those who sat in the Ryman to see those shows were literally sitting in pews. 

I wonder what church architecture will be like 100 years from now. 

Whatever direction the church takes, history suggests that it is unlikely that the megachurch model will endure.  Some believe house churches are the future.  Some anticipate some sort of rise in neo-orthodoxy. 

It’s anybody’s guess.

Maybe someday folks will be surprised to discover that some well-known building in their world was originally constructed as a church.

Still Chilly

It was cold and windy last Thursday night, last night’s low was 38 and for the next few days at least the forecast lows will be in the 40s.  It’s almost May.  I’m just shaking my head and wondering if the corn will germinate.  But I expect the day will soon arrive, in the summer heat, when I’ll miss these chilly spring days. 

Last week I shut down our wood boiler.  We had record heat (90 degrees) and it seemed foolish to keep burning wood.  We have backup gas heat, but we’ve been managing without it.  I wonder what other weather surprises this year has in store for us.

Cherie started our fireplace, just to take some of the chill out of the air.  Our cat Dixie normally stays close to the heat ducts during the winter.  Those weren’t helping her so she camped out at the fireplace.


Good idea.

Cover Me

O God, thou bottomless abyss,
     Thee to perfection who can know?
O height immense, what words suffice
     Thy countless attributes to show?
Unfathomable depths thou art!
     O plunge me in thy mercy’s sea;
Void of true wisdom is my heart,
     With love embrace and cover me!

Ernst Lange, translated by John Welsey (1780)

Broody Hens and a Long Day Planting

We have two broody hens sitting on clutches of eggs.   If things go as they should we’ll have a bunch of newly hatched chicks in a few weeks.

The two mamas-to-be have different styles.  One is sitting in a box I placed on the floor of the coop.  She didn’t object when I moved her there and seems perfectly content to sit it out in the privacy of the box.



The other one has hunkered down in a nesting box and seems determined not to be moved.  Based on the fierce stare she gives me whenever I come near, I’m satisfied that she’ll stay on the eggs like she should. 


I spent a long day yesterday planting.  It felt good to get things in the ground.   It may seem that there isn’t much to see in this photo, but this is a garden I’ve been trying to get planted for a long time.  Beneath the soil are the seeds that will hopefully generate an abundance of peas, joi choi, kale, collards, turnip greens, strawberry spinach, green romaine lettuce, sensopai and rainbow chard.  It’s a pleasant sight to me.


After I finished that garden I moved on to the potatoes.  I planted seven varieties this year, including four varieties of fingerlings that are new to us.



A few more days like today and I’ll start to feel caught up.