Monday, February 21, 2011
Located just north of Darien on Highway 17, it is nestled off the highway and tucked behind a small sandy circular drive in a copse of trees. This tiny church is only 15 feet long and 10 feet wide, though it seats12 parishioners and a pastor. Outside the church entrance stands a small, miniature-looking bell tower about 12 feet tall with a little bronze plate dating 1998. However, the church itself, the brainchild of Ms. Agnes Harper, was completed in 1949. Ms. Harper was a widowed grocer of modest means when she decided to build a church for those in the area. At the time, it was thought such meager funds would not do justice to the magnificence of the Lord. But Ms. Harper persevered, deeding the title of the church to one, “Jesus Christ.”
Walking through the never-locked door, a burst of light floods the small room and shines on the prayer bench between the pulpit and the pews. The room is quiet and there is a holiness about the room giving me a sense of peace. Pews made of wooden chairs form three rows on either side of the abbreviated aisle, each chair with a built in wooden slot for hymnals and a fold-down prayer bench that tucks gently underneath each of the sturdy seats. On this overcast afternoon, the room has a slightly used feel to it caused by the sandy tracks on the carpet. The Church pamphlets state it is “Where Folks Rub Elbows With God” and it is easy to see from the size why they would state this. A bird chirps outside the entrance, a lonely sound in the quiet of the afternoon. The simple wooden planks that form the arched ceiling allow for the filtered sounds of cars going by along with the chirping of the bird.
The space is filled with sincerity and warmth, a quality that feels in high demand in this era of political preaching. It is as though you can feel the comfort of a higher power. In such a small area, where just a few people can worship, it is powerful to still feel so miniscule.
The pulpit is made of maple wood with a simple cross adorning the front. To the right side of the pulpit against the wall is a sign, soliciting donations. A box built into the wall has a slit in it. Underneath the powerful lock holding the collection deposit closed is a sad note with a hollow warning “Do not cut lock.” Underneath this script, and to the side of the lettering are handwritten notes with such sentiments as “You will go to hell” or “You’re stealing from God.” I am saddened by the realization that evil can invade such a small sacred place. I realize that the sheltered chapel is in a particularly vulnerable spot. Yet, even this weakness may bolster the strength of the little building, whose existence continues on despite thieves and vandals.