Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I went inside the old stone church at Ocean Point

Never Done: I went inside the old stone church at Ocean Point

I have been coming to East Boothbay, Maine for 45 years. I have lived and worked here for many months at a stretch, and I have come for a few days at a time. I have walked for miles through woods and climbed for miles over rocks. I thought I knew Ocean Point inside and out, but it turned out I only knew it outside and out. I've walked all over, I've played tennis on the community courts, I've gone swimming to the little island, I've napped on the rocks in the sun, I've gotten soaked by sea spray, I've been there at dawn and I've been there at dusk, but as it turned out, I have never been inside the old stone church.

And then, as Josh and I were walking past it, the door to the church was open. Just like that -- a literal open door inviting us in.  It's a tiny stone chapel with wooden pews and a wooden ... OK, I was just going to call it a bima, which is the word for it in a synagogue, but I guess it's a pulpit. (Is that right? What's the name for the entire area that includes the pulpit? On an elevated platform, with other chairs for people to sit on, and a door to the confession room?) Also, there's an organ in there. The church was built in 1917, and sits literally on the end of the point. If you stand at the front of the church and look out over the congregation, then through the open door you are mere yards away from the Atlantic Ocean. (There are places when New England feels like old England, and this is one of them.)

What's great about this door being open, and my being able to go inside this church, is that just two days earlier, someone told me a story about an ethical dilemma she had in connection to this church and this organ. Her niece is getting married there in late October. It's a small, stone, unheated space, and it is likely to be quite cold. (For comparison's sake, it's 43 degrees here today, in early October.) She wanted to think of a way to warm it up, and so she offered to hire an organist to play music. (Before we dive into her ethical dilemma, can we just pause to admire that her idea of how to warm up a cold stone church was to bring in music? How wonderful is that?) The problem is, her daughter thinks she overstepped by offering to take charge of the music -- that it wasn't her place to take charge of anything.  Especially something as vital as music.

I disagreed, on the theory that the bride could have declined her offer. It's not like our friend bribed her, or threatened to boycott the wedding if she wasn't put in charge of the music. Also, weddings are expensive, and sometimes the brides and/or grooms need some financial help. I myself went through a similar decision process just recently. I learned that some friends getting married were stretched pretty thin financially, and that they were pinching pennies so they could have beer at the wedding. My immediate inclination was to see if I could sponsor the beer. They had already organized a potluck, and other people were helping with flowers and cake and dress. I thought it was a great opportunity to help, but it's not like I was going to make the beer -- like friends were making the cake and dress, or we were all making the food. I took a couple hours to think it over, and then realized that even though it wasn't a creative contribution on my part, it was both heartfelt and opportune. I made the offer, it was accepted, and everyone was happy (and some people were very happy.) Sometimes open doors are literal, and sometimes they are not, but I have found this year that it's generally a good idea to walk through them.

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