Friday, December 12, 2008

Winchester, Virginia 3.9.07: Prancing Fawns, Absent God

Now in Winchester, Virginia, having driven (beginning 27.8.07) to Walterboro, SC, Edenton, NC, Williamsburg, VA, and now Winchester.

A pilgrimage journey, which began as we prayed a bit in St. Paul’s church in Edenton. Both Steve and I happened to open the bibles at the back of the pews to the Old 100th psalm—reassurance that the Lord doth us make and for his flock doth us take: therefore jubilate Deo.

I seem called in some way I can barely perceive to connect to my disparate spiritual roots. While we were in Edenton, we drove across to Bertie Co. to Scotch Hall, first settled by William Maule, who was, I have to think, a relative of my ancestor George Strachan through Maule’s mother Barbara Strachan.

We found Scotch Hall only fortuitously, by the kind intervention of an elderly librarian and a lady in the library—genteel old Southern ladies. They gave us precise instructions.

As we neared it, we came to a little chapel with a graveyard for the Lockharts and Maules who lived in Scotch Hall after William Maule and his family. As we neared the chapel, two little fawns pranced across the road: hinds’ feet in high places (though this was a very low one).

The chapel was deeply restful, breezes from Batchelor’s Bay sweeping around it. George Strachan lived just west of here on the Cashie. I know he must have been often to this spot. My Anglican roots, led a sheep in that particular flock.

Then in Williamsburg, we go to Bruton Parish and sit in one of those box-pew things, and I notice I’m sitting in a box that has a plaque showing that Paul Carrington sat there as burgess. Inside the box is a plaque saying George Clinton Batchelor had donated furnishings for the box. The Paul Carrington who was burgess was a son or grandson of Paul Carrington and Henningham Codrington, my ancestors. And George C. Batchelor is surely one of my Virginia Batchelor relatives, somehow—two more small reminders to pursue my religious roots on this trip.

We prayed a bit in the Bruton church, reading the Old 100th again.

As we drove north and neared Staunton, I told Steve I believed Tinkling Spring Presbyterian church, where my Kerr and Pickens ancestors were baptized, was somewhere near here, and wouldn’t it be nice to see. But how? I had no directions.

Near Staunton, Steve got off the highway to buy gas. I happened to see the road we crossed as we exited the freeway was Tinkling Spring. Steve asked in the filling station about a church of that name. They pointed across the road.

Gorgeous church, cemetery on a hillside. We went inside. Deeply peaceful. Read Jeremiah 31 with its promise to return the blind and the lame home, to live by brooks of water on a level road, to ransom Israel and guard Israel as a shepherd the flock. Again, roots . . . .

And today, Hopewell Friends’ Meeting, where my McKay and Jobe ancestors would have attended meetings.

Okay. Here’s the thing. All this sounds so pious, so clear, so smug, so certain. And yet our lives aren’t. They’re all too often shitty.

What we experience far more are the aporias, the inexplicable gaps in history caused by outright cruelty and malice. We grapple with the absence of God, with the dearth of any religious language to speak of the experience of being gay in a church that savages gay people.

Home? It’s all I’ve ever sought. Still waters, green pastures, God’s guiding hand . . . .

But where and how? How to sustain life in such a savage church and world?

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