Tuesday, July 02, 2013

An Unexpected Find

We are enjoying the Vermont leg of our sabbatical so far. Being so close to Canada gives us the feel of being "away", especially after the high hubbub of being at General Assembly in downtown Indianapolis last week. But I confess that there are aspects here of lament for us (no regrets, as lament is an important part of life). But amidst the lamenting of things gone past, I had an awesome surprise find yesterday that even re-connected me to the events of General Assembly last week. I've probably driven by this church a hundred times, but something made me pull in to the driveway yesterday.

And I'm glad I did.

But I'm ahead of myself. Let me set some things up:

Both Meghan and I have significant family roots in Vermont, though hers are deeper and more widespread than my own. For me: I grew up vacationing almost every summer on the shores of Lake Champlain in a little inlet just south of Lapan's Bay and on the opposite peninsular shore of St. Alban's Bay. My maternal grandparents started vacationing up here in 1955 when my mother was just five years old. In the early sixties (1964?) they bought the land that the Nease siblings still own together and where I grew up visiting. If I added it up, I could imagine that I've spent maybe as much as a year of nights and days of my life at our "camp." The key to this place has been family. And for decades, the anchor was Grandma & Grandpa Nease. They have both been gone for several years now, and with their passing, the "get-go" for the camp has gone as well. It's often the case with family camps and cabins. In our situation, there are five siblings that own it together. There's been no fight or squabble...just the differently-pulled directions and interests of life. 

On Sunday, we visited my family's camp. We are not staying there because the two cabins are still in a devastated state from significant flooding two springs ago. Now I knew before yesterday that it sure seems likely that our family camp is headed for extinction. And I already knew that the willow tree that had been there for a couple centuries had finally fallen several weeks ago.

But seeing these things in person with my kids running ignorantly around the place made for a difficult time. I lament the loss of this tree. And I lament the apparent demise of a family camp & cabins. I still have slivers of hope that it might be resurrected, but I'm also a bit realistic.

It's one of those situations where I sure wish I had money. 

(The first picture below is the mess of what's left of the willow stump. It was massive. It would have taken at least three of me - maybe four - to wrap my arms around the thing. The second picture includes the front of our main cabin.)

Meghan's family's story is similar though also different. Her roots go back several generations in multiple directions, mostly in Waterville, Vermont. There are still many relatives in the area, but they are distant. There are two houses that remain dear to her that we visit, in addition to a cemetery, an old Nazarene church building (currently dormant), a covered bridge, and other small memorable places. With Meghan's family, there are four siblings (including her mother) that are connected to one particular house - Cardinal Crest - the retirement home of her Pop-Pop & Grammie. The house has no significant plans for the distant future. And each time we drive by now, it's more apparent that "it'll never be the same again."

And we know this...that things can never be the same again. But for two sentimental people for whom family is a deeply important thing, it still is reason for lament. Yes, new things arise and new memories are made. But old memories die hard. For us at least.

So, speaking of new ones:
We like to drive from St. Alban's to Waterbury (or vice versa). It includes Routes 7, 104a, 104, 15, 118, and 100. One way or the other, we also cut through Smuggler's Notch on Route 108. It's increasingly "touristy", but we still drive through because of the Notch. We did so yesterday, knowing that our kids love the rocks and streams to climb on and through. Just after turning off 100 to take 108 north through the Notch, there is a little Catholic Church. We've driven by it a hundred times. I've probably noticed it before because it's a beautiful wooden building, but for whatever reason, I was compelled to pull in yesterday. 

And I'm so glad I did.

It turns out that the church building is built on the site of the birthplace of Joseph Dutton. Dutton joined Father Damian on the island of Malokai in Hawaii to minister to the leper colony there and carried on Saint Damien's work for four decades after his death. When I read the plaque on the outside of the church, I excitely yelled back to Meghan in the car. It's a small world:

I first heard of and was inspired by the story of Damien just a few months ago in a sermon that David Busic preached during ENC's revival series. Despite the fact that he is one of my favorite preachers, I only went to hear him once that week. (Total aside: I wish I could get to ENC Chapel more often.) I have appreciated Dr. Busic from afar for over a decade now, watch-following him in his various moves from ministry assignment to ministry assignment. I had signed up to take his preaching class while in seminary in Kansas City, but he got the call to Bethany First Church in Oklahoma City right after and so I got the dean instead. I watched Dave get elected to the highest ministerial office of the Church of the Nazarene last week: General Superintendent. The fact that the events of General Assembly were connected with our jaunts in the boonies of rural Vermont was a great encouragement to me yesterday. I thank God for the moment. I hope to read more about Father Damien and Brother Joseph Dutton. The little bit I've found on the web so far is really neat.

The church building is incredible. It was unlocked (as all church buildings "should" be) so I went in. The small sanctuary had small, but beautiful stained glass windows telling the stories of Jesus' ministry (as many RCC chapels do). I went back to the car and after Meghan got to go in, she suggested to bring Brayden in. He was able to point out many of the stories and told me what they were. I hope to go back sometime to get better pictures of the small stained glass windows. I did get pictures of the outside of the building where there are huge artistic murals that tell the story of Damien and Dutton in Hawaii. The story will be the source of illustrations for sermons to come. For now, you can see my album here:

If you'd like to read more about it (including connections to the Stowe Von Trapps themselves), read this:

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