There was a temptation to make this blog entry about history, but what I’m trying to express is more defined than that. It is the kind of history that slaps you in the face when you see it. It is about the obvious signs of past service. And that holds mystery for me and a special category of awe.

For the past few weeks I’ve been mining my memory for signs of where and when, or from whom I gained this appreciation for past service. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it is one of life’s rare gifts that is personal. Maybe it has come from many lifetimes of past service. That is, some sort of subconscious awareness that signs of wear are meaningful. In this lifetime at least, as I don’t recall the others, these signs of wear are not only meaningful, but beautiful.

I know I’m not the only one, because we see photos and painting of old buildings, worn farm equipment, and interesting aged faces all the time. Many of us feel the need to capture and record these in some way because we understand their value.

Nearby my new home, I spotted this old church and felt compelled to capture it.

I felt when I got closer to see it that I wanted to care for it. I immediately wanted to see if it was for sale and fix it up – to live in it – or create a space for artists to work. Then logic presented itself with the reality that it really should be razed. There is nothing worth salvaging, and yet there is value. The twisted form is pleasing to the eye. The fact it is still home to a batch of pigeons, that it holds its ground even as it fades, that it reeks of memories I’ll never know, all have value.

People got married here. Babies were baptized. Individuals found community. Farmers gathered from miles around to spend their hour with a God of their understanding and started the week anew. There were bake sales, and youth groups, and choir practices, and counseling sessions, and bible studies. There were different points of view expressed at meetings to discuss direction and purpose and the use and care of this very building. All of this stopped at some point. How sad.

And now the building stands alone in the prairie wind and sun, bending a little more with each year that passes, with each hailstorm that pounds, losing its paint, home to rodents, windows long gone and its people forgotten.

To me, in my present, it holds a charm that I feel compelled to capture and to share.

And to whatever brings me to appreciate it, I am grateful. It brings me joy to see it, to shoot it, and to write about it. And I realize that appreciating past service is another path to happiness.