Pastor's Comments

Pastors Comments

SANCTUARIES, ART and FENWAY

Within the Old Testament book of 1 Kings, the scripture notes how “God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt” (4: 29-30). The book of 1 Kings gives account of Solomon building the Temple in Jerusalem. Within a few chapters, 5-8, there is historical record of his intent to “build a house for the name of the Lord my God.” The scripture gives specific and detailed accounts of preparation for the construction, the gathering of materials, ornate and detailed furnishings, the actual building of the Temple in Jerusalem, its dedication, Solomon’s speech, and his blessing the assembly of Israel. It was his hope that “all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” With encouragement he says: “Therefore devote yourselves completely to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

As characteristic of the former Temple in Jerusalem, every place of worship holds unique attributes full of meaning and history, as people gather from neighboring communities to worship God. At Chestnut, I cherish discussions I have with individuals who remember attending services at the former Chestnut Avenue location, a place where some of our members were baptized, confirmed, and taught youth classes. They sang in the choir, exchanged marriage vows at the altar, raised and educated their children in Sunday School classes. They have wonderful stories and remembrances of a former time, while remaining tied to a rich history of over a century. Members of that era, along with our newest members are inextricably woven into what I describe as being the “Chestnut Covenant Connection.”

Recently, I had opportunity to visit three unique locations of worship in Boston. However, the initial purpose of my visit was to accompany Elaine on her book release and reading tour held at Newtonville Books. Once again, I enjoyed meeting some of “her people” from Bennington College as well as renewing friendships with a few of her colleagues I had met some years ago. It was a wonderful evening shared with friends, writers and artists celebrating the publication of Hunger for Salt.

And certainly during my brief visit, I enjoyed periods of silence, wonder and awe while visiting three sacred spaces of worship. Directly across the street from Boston Public Garden, we stumbled across an afternoon open house at Arlington Church, which houses “The World’s Largest Tiffany Window Collection of Its Kind” created from 1898 to 1930 by Louis Comfort, Tiffany’s renowned designer and Fredrick Wilson. These 16 magnificent stained glass works of art give interpretation and glimpses of Biblical scenes such as The Annunciation, John the Baptist, Madonna of the Flowers along with Jesus and the Children. Built between 1859 and 1861, The Arlington Street Church came into being through the vision and inspiration of renowned architect Arthur Delevan Gilman. One will never complain about temperatures in the Chestnut sanctuary after a visit to Arlington Church. There is no air conditioning and due to the enormous expense, they cannot afford heat.

We had the opportunity to walk inside the recently renovated Memorial Church at Harvard University, which in November will be celebrating its 85 anniversary.  Professor Jonathan L. Walton writes: “We wanted to make sure the Memorial Church is open, inviting, and fully accessible to all members of the Harvard Household.” From toddlers, students and faculty, they wanted their place of worship to represent a “beautiful, inter-generational family of worship. Many look to MemChurch as a warm and welcoming respite from the rigors of their workload.” It is indeed a “space of grace.”

Trinity Episcopal Church is now undergoing a massive restoration project. The congregation was founded in 1733 as an Episcopal Church, and is today known as part of the worldwide Anglican Communion currently serving 4,000 households. Now in its third location, designed and constructed between 1872-1877, this architectural jewel is a massive complex of granite and sandstone, while holding American and European stained glass within the heart of Boston. The sanctuary reflects a creative and intentional blend of color, architecture and art, evoking a sense of awe and wonder which is simply breathtaking and astounding, while at the same time proclaiming the majestic glory of God and the history of Christendom. Within the sanctuary are elements capturing Byzantine and Medieval motifs, as well as the art of the Renaissance. It has been designated one of the ten most significant buildings in America. One cannot help but notice the contrast with John Hancock Tower, a modern office building across the street, which was constructed in concrete, glass and steel and holds a silent yet strong reflection of Trinity's edifice. Trinity was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971.

Additionally, I renewed friendships with the magnificent paintings of the Italian artist Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510), a painter whose work exemplifies the artistic characteristics of Renaissance Florence in the 15th century. Last spring I was able to catch glimpse of his brush strokes at the “Botticelli and the Search for the Divine” exhibit at the Muscarelle Museum of Art on the campus of William & Mary College, and now again at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts! This is the largest and most important exhibit of its kind featuring Botticelli’s work in the United States. Adding icing to the cake was the exhibit of “Matisse in the Studio,” displaying the
paintings and sculptures of Henri Matisse (1864 – 1954) in addition to the objects that inspired his paintings such as a pewter jug, African sculptures, Spanish vases, Egyptian textiles, and French chocolate pots. According to Matisse, “creativity takes courage.”

And finally, since my childhood of playing Little League Baseball and even now trying to play church softball, how fortunate and wonderful to finally attend a Red Sox game, receive a tour which included walking on the field, climbing up and hanging out in left field of the Green Monster during batting practice. Dating back to 1912, this historic ballpark known as Fenway surrounds a field where Babe Ruth walked, where Ted Williams ran bases, and where the likes of Carl Yastrzemski played for 23 years, and of course where “Big Papi” homered. Fenway, like an old sanctuary, a place of worship for devout fans, reeks of lore and history. Have you ever wondered how many prayers had been whispered to God within the “Fenway Sanctuary” prior to the Red Sox finally winning their first World Series in 86 years, eventually breaking “The Curse of the Bambino?” How wonderful to witness a divine miracle in our lifetime!