“The Church in the Wildwood” is a song that was written by Dr. William S. Pitts in 1857 following a coach ride that stopped in Bradford, Iowa. It is a song about a church in a valley near the town. The first stanza goes like this…
“There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood
No lovelier place in the dale
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale…”
The church is no longer in a wildwood, nor is it brown, or even located in Iowa, but it has been a favorite hymn of the parishioners of the Bible Chapel in Hamersville since I can remember. As I sat in the pew on Easter Sunday 55 years of affiliation with this church were brought back to me. Growing up in Bethel, Ohio, a town of 2500 people, and no less than seven churches, one might wonder why we drove 8 miles away to a tiny little country church in an even smaller town. The reason, I have recently learned, is because about 75 years ago the church, in an even smaller town of about 100 people, closed its doors, and the vestments were moved to the little Bible Chapel in Hamersville. Because my mother’s family was from that tiny town, named Point Isabel, they, too, migrated with the vestments to the little church at Hamersville. She and my father were married there over 60 years ago. Their three children were baptized there, and later married there. It seldom has more than 30 people in attendance on a Sunday and has been like that for many, many years. Nevertheless, the church continues to be the well-loved, iconic, country church filled with the good people of the local farming communities.
Though I am not religious, I do consider myself spiritual and that I have a personal ‘connection’ with a force higher than myself. I honor my own past within that church and when I visit my parents I attend services with them. This particular Easter as I sat in the pew, my mind contemplated my religious views. Communion was served but I didn’t partake. It didn’t seem relevant to what I believe these days. I thought probably there would be a few eyebrows raised, or at least a big question mark over me but it was more important to me that I be true to my own beliefs. Much as I have enjoyed the genuine fellowship and affection of the people of that church, and others I have attended over my lifetime, my true relationship with God has been forged from my own life experiences and from what lay in my heart. This morning I received a beautiful writing from a friend, penned by the poet and philosopher Rumi (http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/875661.Rumi) It really brought into clearer focus those thoughts I had on Easter Sunday.
I tried to find him on the Christian Cross, but He was not there: I went to the Temple of the Hindus and to the old pagodas, but I could not find a trace of Him anywhere.
I searched on the mountains and in the valleys, but neither in the heights nor in the depths was I able to find Him. I went to the Caaba in Mecca, but He was not there either.
I questioned the scholars and philosophers, but He was beyond their understanding.
I then looked into my heart and it was there He dwelled that I saw Him: He was nowhere else to be found.
Jalal ad-Din Rumi