Sunday, June 22, 2008

Outdoor chapel

It's been a while since I've had anything blog-worthy to discuss about HUUC. The church is still "spiritually feeding me," but it's basically a similar experience each time. I don't think that's so odd for a church.

Today, however, threw me for a loop. Half of our service was conducted indoors, and for the second half we were directed to our "new outdoor chapel." We'd been hearing allusions to this chapel for months; it was a Scout project by one of our youth members, Logan. And so, in my head, I expected it to be... I don't know. A lean-to or something?

But as we were lead down a mulched path, through the woods behind Heritage and down the hill, we came to a clearing that gave me goosebumps. There was a small pulpit area at the bottom with a small chalice and a ribbon around it, and there were tons of benches centered around it. I am adding pictures so that you can get a better idea what I'm talking about here, but without a fuller, more panoramic view you can't really get the full effect.

Reverend Bill gave a small speech and let Logan cut the ribbon. As he talked I could not help but look around at the gorgeous woods that almost entirely surrounded our new chapel. There is a small, rarely-used road behind it, but it's overwhelmed by the smell of leaves and the sound of birds. You can see the church if you try, but mostly what you see are trees.

When we were finding our seat, Bradley asked me where I'd like to sit and I said, "Where I can see a tree." This is a joke of course, but what's funny is that every time we sit down in church I sit where I can see the woods through the windows. Bradley doesn't ask where we should sit anymore, but when he used to I always used to reply in the same way, "Where I can see a tree." Now, as if someone rebuilt the church just for me, we've been transplanted (pun?) outside into the very heart of our little piece of forest. (And of course I know that I am not the only one who feels this way; most of the congregation are forest-loving hippie-types. That's why we work.)

If I ever start to doubt my choice to come to Heritage I hope I can remember this day, when I felt renewed and in love with the ideals of my church as if it were the first day all over again.

Another thing that I remember about the very first time we visited Heritage: when Bradley and I were driving away and we had realized that we both wanted to come back, one of the things that we discussed was how cool it would be to just spend some time in the woods. Bradley was into meditation at the time and I was feeling the need to have Somewhere Else to Go in Times of Escape. We talked about finding big rocks and spending some time on our own, centering in the ways that we find work for us individually.

I hope that we make good on that this summer, and find some time to sneak away, find our own corner of Heritage's woods, and make good use of the new outdoor chapel to awaken whatever's lying dormant within us.


luckeyfrog said...

One of my favorite aspects of the church camps I went to when I was young was simply the fact that we spent so much time outdoors. A chapel in the woods, looking out on a lake, is so peaceful to me. Singing hymns and songs around a campfire on a cool night has such a different feel than sitting in a church. For one week, I even had a chance to go to a 'camp' of sorts on Panama City Beach, Florida- and sitting on the beach at sunset, listening to the waves, was the most perfect setting I've ever experienced for prayer and reflection.

This sort of opportunity didn't happen often, but my church always does at least one outdoor service each summer. We don't have woods, but I still love it.

Sierra said...

I feel like this is one I've been to before. Are you in Pennsylvania?