Tag Archives: church

Bonnieux: 12th Century Church

The old, old church is a hearty eighty-six steps up a steep hill from the village.  Even with our daily five miles, I started to feel winded.  This is no gentle slope.  Did there used to be more dwellings that high up in Bonnieux or was that all part of it?  In the 12th century was this just what you did every Sunday?  Or several times a week for that matter?  And just as Gothic cathedrals’ heights help bring their congregations closer to heaven with their arches and steeples, are these steps supposed to signify a journey towards communion with God?

stairs

Of course in my state of rapture, in reaching the top, in Provençal July heat, and in Christian ruins, I didn’t bother to take any pictures of the church itself.  There’s hardly enough room at the top of the hill to get far enough away from the wall of the church to capture it all in one shot anyway, and the church itself was locked (though it isn’t used as a church, classical music performances are held there occasionally).

church wall

There’s a little bench up there at the top under that big cypress tree that’s obscured by the tree’s shadows.  It’s so quiet up there, and windy too.  In a way it’s soothing to sit on that bench, and in a way it’s very eerie, being so high up, and so dwarfed by everything around you–the church, the trees, the vista, and time itself.

Sitting in the shade and peering through the big dark cypress branches makes you understand Cezanne and the awe he obviously felt a bit better (think Forest 1894 and Landscape Near Aix, the Plain of the Arc River).  I have such a different perspective on Cezanne than I used to.  In college I fought one of my art history professors constantly about him–I just never felt the still lives and thought he was over-credited for his perspective.  Now looking at his landscapes that once seemed so benign to me, I see much more of the turbulence that I feel is the essence of Provence–it isn’t that calm lavender scented-rosé filled country the Brits, or whoever else might think it is–it’s thick and heavy.  Life is really felt here.  As the French say, it’s sauvage–wild.

church cypress1

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church cypress2

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Solid Rock Baptist Church Turns 65 Years Old

I got up early, ironed my suit, picked up Mrs. B’s wrist corsage I ordered for her from Bloomies, picked up some sheer “buff” hose at Walgreens, and set my hair.

I attended the Solid Rock Baptist Church 65th Anniversary brunch at a banquet hall near the Oakland Airport with Mrs. B.  It was an unprecedented experience for me, in every way.  I am pretty sure it is the first time that I have been the racial minority in a room of people.  Out of approximately 80 attendees, I was one of 3 whites.  In addition to the pastor of Solid Rock, there were at least five other Baptist preachers in attendance who were visiting to express their support for Solid Rock.  Many of Mrs. B’s amazing family were in attendance including her two surviving children, and several grandchildren.  None of her great-grandchildren or great-great-grandchildren were able to come, perhaps a combination of the high price of tickets and distance.  I know Mrs. B’s children fairly well, since they are often at her house, but I’d never met her grandchildren.  They were all so kind to me, as was every single person there.  Mrs. B’s grandchildren, who are all significantly my senior, all greeted me with open arms–literally–thanking me for looking out for their grandmother.  They insisted on hugging me at first sight.  The members of the congregation were equally as welcoming and went out of their way to make me feel comfortable.  

The program was amazing and included a lot of preaching.  The pastors were all phenomenal.  I absolutely loved it.  As much as it was something I’d never experienced before, I felt oddly at home, and as if these people’s faith were as much theirs as mine.  We gave thanks, we prayed, and we said Amen, a lot.  They did something I loved called “Words of Encouragement.”  These presentations were made by two different visiting pastors who gave encouragement to the church as a whole, and Solid Rock’s pastor, respectively.  What they each said was different, but I just loved the concept of Encouragement.  One of the pastors told us: “we ALL need encouragement.”  Nothing could be more true.

The praise team sang, and there was even a band.  The keynote speaker was Pastor John Waiters from Mount Olive Baptist Church in Palo Alto.  His words were powerful, but what was even deeper was just looking into his burning eyes as he spoke to all of us, each and every one of us, and demanded that we recognize Jesus as our Savior.

Mrs. B was honored by the church.  She has served Solid Rock for sixty-four of its sixty-five years.  She was the choir director for fifty of those years.  And she looks just as good as she did almost the whole time.  Two other nonagenarians were honored for their service along with her.  According to the pastor, each had their individual quirks that distinguished them: one of the sisters was known for saying not to cross her, lest she…well you know, the other sister was the fashion queen, best dressed at church, and Mrs. B has always been known to be the first in church every Sunday all these sixty-four years, and strutting up the steps quick with a switch in her hips.  When Mrs. B heard the pastor say so she stood up and shook it.  It was beautiful.

By the end of the marathon four hour event I felt like I was friends with everyone in the room.  Solid Rock’s pastor, Michael Wright, told me I was welcome anytime at his church.  All the Sisters on the anniversary committee hugged me and told me to come back soon.

I told them all it was a privilege and honor to be there, and that I appreciated their invitation.

The afternoon ended with a hundred hugs, lots of pictures, and lots of happiness.  

I took Mrs. B to get the Colonel on the way home so she wouldn’t have to cook for herself, as she does most nights, in spite of her ninety-three years.   It was a beautiful day.

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