My first two years after high school, I went to a small Lutheran college in Newberry, SC.
I have a lot of good and strong memories of my time at Newberry. Some of the best people I’ll ever know I met at that college.
One of the memories that remains with me today is of an Episcopal church that was downtown on Main St.
I don’t know how the town is today, but when I was there it was a pretty safe, quiet little place. If you were feeling restless…or if you’d had too much coffee trying to cram for an exam…it was a good place to walk without feeling like you were in any danger.
This church that I’m talking about was far enough away from the school that it felt separate from it, but close enough that it wasn’t hard to get to.
You just had to walk past my friend Marc’s father’s house…past the little botanical garden…turn left when you hit Main St….and you were there.
The church was never locked.
I suppose that the church’s doors did have locks. I haven’t seen many buildings that don’t have locks on their doors as a matter of course…but in my time at Newberry, anytime I needed or wanted to go someplace quiet and peaceful, away from the campus, I could count on being able to go to and just sit in this little church.
It was all stained glass and wood worn smooth by years of people moving in and out of the pews, stone and concrete, brass and silver and holy water. It was a good place.
There is something really peaceful about a church that is brave enough not to lock its doors.
I remember how eye-opening it was to serve on the church council at our home church in Marietta when I was 15 or so. I was the youth representative and full of the thought that a church was a spiritual place. I learned that in addition to being a spiritual place, a church is also a business. It was a real revelation to me then and I guess it still is…even though it’s no longer a surprise to know that. I suppose I expected the adults to be even more spiritual than I was at 15…but what adult is more of anything than a 15-year-old? It’s a pretty intense time. There are a lot of 15 year old children who know it all…but they seem to forget most of it in the years to come.
I guess maybe maturity is a little about growing into one’s limitations…and learning to live with them.
Anyway….this little church brought back those feelings of intense but quiet spirituality. Or, maybe, this little church in a small South Carolina town let me bring my own renewed spirituality and hope to it? I don’t really know…it just felt right to find an unlocked door and go in to sit for a while.
A few years after I stopped going to school in Newberry, a tornado came through town and destroyed the little church. From what I remember, they went right down Main St. and really tore up most of the downtown area.
They rebuilt the little church in the same location.
I don’t know if they put locks on the doors.