Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gaylordsville United Methodist Church

I don't consider myself a religious person by any measure. A 'cafeteria Catholic' (one who picks and chooses) is probably the most apt description of my beliefs. That said, I have a long-standing fascination with--and passion for--church and cathedral architecture. On these very pages I've written of my love affair with Henry Adams' Mont Saint Michel and Chartres. I've journeyed on my very own mini-tour of the architecturally stunning edifices at Chartres, Coutances, Amien, Rouen, and beyond. The parish church of my youth, St. Francis of Assisi, is itself a beautiful structure with a soaring, beamed ceiling and numerous stained glass windows.

In the Northeast, though, we have special churches and cathedrals of our own, beyond Fenway Park, of course. These white-steepled beauties--whose stately spires dot our rolling hillsides--are at the very heart of New England architecture.

Classic New England facade, ca 1854
Yesterday, while on a photographic quest for my weekly Flickr challenge, I was driving Route 7 here in Connecticut. It's a drive rich with picture taking opportunities, but nothing was really catching my eye. Crossing the Housatonic, I drove into the hamlet of Gaylordsville to get turned around so I could head back south. As I crossed the river again, though, I saw the sharp steeple of a church sticking out above the trees and decided to have a closer look.

The Gaylordsville United Methodist Church is perched on slight incline right on busy Route 7, but it doesn't feel in any way hurried. The simplicity, symmetry, and pedimented façade caught my eye immediately. As I left my car, I noticed a woman working outside--the lawn had been freshly mowed and trimmed--and I greeted her saying that I just wanted to take a few pictures. We exchanged pleasantries about how lovely the weather was and I made my way around the exterior, noting the deep green shutters, the decorative mouldings. Looking through a partially open window I could see the green and amber hued stained glass shedding warm afternoon light out across the pews.

Reflected clouds, green shutters
I'd taken quite a few different pictures of the church from the outside and was about to walk back to my car. As I rounded the corner, the woman whom I'd spoken to earlier asked if I'd like to go in. Really? I'm accustomed to churches generally being closed so I usually content myself with the exteriors. She said to me that something (someone?) just told her to invite me to go inside. I cheerfully accepted the offer.

As we walked through the door I was enveloped by 'old building' smell. It's right up there with 'old library' smell for me and when you add in beadboard wainscoting and push button lighting you have (in my estimation) the hallmarks of a great old building. My new friend--whose name I was too lunkheaded to ask!--told me about how special this place was for her. How it just kind of drew people in, brought people together. Clearly this church was and is an integral part of this small community.

I have what I consider to be an overdeveloped sense of place. By that I mean that I know almost immediately if a place is 'for me' or not. It's a visceral, gut reaction and some places--be they entire cities or single structures--just don't resonate at my particular (peculiar) wavelength. This place, though, this small church, exuded a stoic grace that I've come to identify with these old New England houses of worship. I liked it here.

I walked down the aisle, spent time gazing at the amber glow that shone through the stained glass window, and lingered at a quilt on the wall. I browsed the hymnals, admired the cushioned pews (none of those in most of the Catholic churches of my life) and sat calmly in the quiet amidst the serene blue walls.
Stained glass though the screen
Walking to my car, I stopped to thank the kind soul who had shared her church with me for part of the afternoon. Her love of the place was evident and I appreciated the gesture. Not only did I have more than enough pictures for my photo project (which can be viewed on Flickr here), but I also passed an unexpectedly enjoyable Saturday in late summer when my august August ennui is as its peak. My sincere thanks to my unnamed friend and the community that takes such loving care of this beautiful old church.

Very literal interpretation of the open door
welcome I received

Looking toward the altar

The amber light shining through the stained glass
window casts a warm hue on some of the pews

Detail of the memorial stained glass window


Sid Fernando said...

Your columns remind me of Carol Lynley films from the 1960s: A woman in a car exploring the countryside and everything is so vivid. Except nothing bad happens to you (Thank God!) the way they did to Carol! You're first-person narrator is so distinct and inviting that this particular post that I was actually going to skip enticed me after all!

The Paper Tyger said...

Far too kind, my friend! Many thanks for the read and the comment, it was such an unexpectedly pleasant afternoon.

Theresa Volinski said...

Oh my! I want to cry! You captured our church so beautifully! I am in awe! Thank you!
Theresa Volinski
Trustee Chairperson of GUMC

Theresa Volinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Theresa Volinski said...

BTW, the woman you were talking to, her name is Stacy. : )

The Paper Tyger said...

Theresa, thanks so much for the kind comment and for letting me know my kind friend's name! Stacy was wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed my time at your lovely church.