Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Tale of Two Steeples

Two steeples, two churches. One has a clock and a weather vane. The other is very tall and thrusts a golden cross into the sky. One is the home to perching pigeons. The steeple with the weather vane provides a resting place for starlings and robins. One church is dark, shut up and for sale. The other has been in existence in one form or another for over 300 years.

Sacred Heart, the for-sale church was caught up in legal settlements in the slow-motion tsunami of the Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandals. The doors were padlocked on Christmas Eve in 2004. Statues of Mary and Jesus were removed early one morning and the church was "de-sacralized" so it could be sold.
Sacred Heart Church steeple

I often think about these steeples as I walk over to the river to sketch.  Since Sacred Heart has fallen into disrepair I always picture in my mind the church imploded from rot, the steeple crashed in on itself and daylight flooding the sanctuary where we can see a congregation of mice, sparrows and raccoons and a tall white pine growing before the dusty altar.

The Eliot Church's steeple had developed a list over the years and had to be straightened out. I wonder how they paid for such an enormous repair?  For years, as I approached the building from Union St. I would wonder just which element in my field of view was askew. Or maybe it was I who was off kilter.
The Eliot Church steeple

I'm partial to the message of a steeple that is engaged with the local's need for accurate weather data and the clock. There's a firm foundation of faith in those observations. Sacred Heart church has the more emotional and compelling story though. It's a story of greed, anguish and a golden cross dangling in the sky… to what end? Sacred Heart is the drama queen pulling us all in some direction but it seems to be in search of a compass or a rudder. Eliot Church shaggily soldiers on with prayer flags, forsythia wreaths and a Prius parked to front, engaged but perhaps it has a more realistic entry point into the human story.

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