Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
by T. A. Fry
Beneath the vast white dome of Westminster,
While bathed in the blue light of Christ the King.
There awaits a hoard of regal treasure
For my beloved when the choir sings.
It’s not the crown jewels set within the Rose
or music’s grandeur from the massive organ.
Nor found in prayers the clergy propose
Should you attend on a Sunday morn’in.
I’ve magically endowed a gold home-fort
to dwell in the hearts of those I love.
For when you need a touch of comfort,
“Ere I’m silent in the loft above.
Shushhhh…. listen, to all this morning’s hymns.
They’re singing; “I love you. Bless you and amen.”
I wrote recently about my muse, but I should distinguish between when the muse visits and a writing prompt. One of the reasons I attend church at Westminster is that often I come away from the service with a writing prompt; something said during the service gives me an idea for a poem. Sometimes it is a singular word that will set the creative process in motion, sometimes it is an entire line of poetry, and I’ll jot it down in the margin of my bulletin.
I’m not sure who said it first, but one of my favorite sayings about the experience of attending Westminster is “bring your brain to church.” For me that means being fully present and open to ideas. When my muse visits, the ideas are fully formed and my fingers are propelled as if by an unseen force writing the poem for me. Oh Darkest Night was written by my Muse. Grandeur was written by me based on one line that formed in my head during a service, “Beneath the vast white dome of Westminster.” Then it was a matter of sitting down and figuring out the rest.
The Sunday I wrote Grandeur, in the fall before my Mother passed, Liz gave me a history lesson on the gorgeous windows called Christ the King and the Tiffany styled window called the Rose. The Rose stylistically does not fit with the rest of the windows in the main sanctuary and I had asked Liz about it. She gave me a 15 minute history lesson about Westminster. The original church was built several blocks north, and was largely destroyed in a fire. The patrons of this church were several of the families from the mill district and the retail barons that the wealth of the milling district in Minneapolis fostered. One of those families, who founded Daytons department stores, which went on to become Target Corporation, were generous in their contributions to the design and construction of the current building in 1898. The Rose window was a gift from one of the families. and was built by a company separate from the rest of the windows in the sanctuary.
The design of the church was radical at the time it was built, with its oval shaped sanctuary and the choir and organ situated in the front behind the pulpit. It moved away from the traditional long narrow design of most churches and made a statement about inclusiveness. The Westminster of today is a far more liberal, progressive congregation than its past. Liz had a hand in moving Westminster on its journey of inclusion and equality and equity. Liz paved a path in the broader Presbyterian church to break down barriers of gender inequality, some overt, some subtle, some just bald headed stupid tradition, that prevented woman from certain roles in the church. Liz and many other women through their intelligent example and wise patience and brave voices have readied Westminster to eventually break through the glass ceiling for its first female lead pastor in the near future.
Grandeur came about on that Sunday afternoon. I went home that November day and it did not take long to come up with a first draft and within a couple of days the final version took shape. It was a gift to my Mother and in a way Liz, and I read it to them the following Sunday after the service. It is a postcard of those many Sundays that I wanted to hold on to, that feeling of togetherness, knowing I would be able to tap into those memories, those feelings when my Mother and Liz would no longer be by my side in our spot in the back of the church where there was a cut out that accommodated Liz’s wheel chair.
Westminster is a sacred place for me. I can feel my Mother’s presence some Sundays seated in the pew. I can feel her wisdom and kindness and generous spirit encouraging me onward, to be my better self, knowing that love she had/has for me continues onward, unabated.