Thursday, October 16, 2008
The Preacher’s Corner
Steeples can be targets for weather
Last week I talked about an explosion in my childhood church and how little children can be very disturbed when something happens to their church. I certainly was.
Many’s the time after we re-occupied the church building that I would study the plaster patch on the wall between our Sunday school room and the room where the old furnace that blew up used to be.
Holly Springs has had its share of church disasters, though never a complete church destruction that I know about. James J. Selby (1773-1856)(Paul Calame’s great-great-great-grandfather) noted in his daily log of events, August 11, 1843) that “The Baptist Church was struck by lightning and dreadfully injured.” A fire in 1849 also struck the Baptist Church and other nearby buildings. Then in the 20th century the steeple of Christ Episcopal Church was struck by lightning and Mayor E. H. Crump of Memphis who happened to be in town visiting his mother called the Memphis Fire Department to come out and assist. Mayor Crump was on hand to personally direct the firefighting activities. The fire consumed the steeple, but the church was saved.
A tornado down in the Delta bent a cross on our church steeple to a 45-degree angle. I sort of wanted to leave it that way as a reminder of God in a world where there is so much we cannot control.
In a more eerie encounter the Rev. Elmer Boykin of Christ Church told me of a windstorm that detached a small cross from the side of the octagonal church tower and sent it spiraling to earth, where it speared into the ground just inches from where Mr. Boykin was walking!
Lightning struck the Methodist Church steeple too, not so long ago, and our church was struck by lightning soon after I moved here. The lesson to be drawn is that towers and steeples are architecturally striking, and also seem to be targets for the weather.
We must remember that the “church is the people” not the building where they worship, but it is always sad when a piece of history goes up in flames.
I saw the ruins of a church in Philadelphia, Penn., which had burned to the ground on Christmas Eve. They forgot to extinguish the altar candles, and after everyone had gone home from the midnight service, the candles had caught the curtains behind the altar on fire. The flames quickly spread and soon only the stone walls were left.
Several times I have walked over to our church on Sunday afternoon when I could not remember seeing the acolyte extinguish those candles.
But perhaps the most lasting testament to a past disaster can be seen at the Presbyterian Church in Leland. The 1927 Mississippi River Flood left that church under fifteen feet of water, and when the flood receded the old frame structure had to be demolished.
When you drive by you are struck by how unusually high the present church stands above the ground. When they built it, they wanted to be sure it never flooded again.
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