“Here is the church, here is the steeple: Open the doors and see all the people!”
Cynthia L. Eppley 09/19/2021
One year ago started out like any other day.
The end of summer, the beginning of Fall.
I had been a little tired lately, but then again: who isn’t? The heat of the summer seemed to take its’ toll.
The ache in my back was increasing.
I tried not to complain.
But then I walked up the hill to our house, trying to catch my breath.
A neighbor had given us a “pulse-ox”monitor, so I was able to watch the oxygen in my blood. Typically, you want to see that number in the 90’s.
Mine was 88.
This number put me into a panic mode, and Bob immediately took me to the Emergency Room.
Bob had to wait in the car, as Covid restrictions were in place.
I waited for xrays, cat scans, and blood work.
The final diagnosis: pneumonia and at least 4 pulmonary embolisms.
I was presenting as a Covid patient; but my tests were coming back negative.
I was whisked up to my room where I would stay for the next 4 days. Poked and prodded, awakened in the middle of the night.
Hospitals are no place to get rest.
But one nurse assured me: you have quite a view.
Room with a View
Surely she was joking?
I looked out onto another wing of the hospital: brick and mortar, and other lonely rooms. But then I saw it: just around the corner from that wing was a steeple.
It stood as part of the original structure of the hospital.
Stately in form, reaching for the sky, and majestic.
It was easy to see during the day and it was illumined at night.
“Abington Memorial Hospital opened its doors in 1914. A familiar community symbol, the hospital’s steeple, was added in 1930.”
The steeple warmed and comforted me through the night.
Why would a steeple have such an effect on me? Isn’t a steeple….just a steeple?
“In architecture, a steeple is a tall tower on a building, topped by a spire and often incorporating a belfry and other components. Steeples are very common on Christian churches and cathedrals and the use of the term generally connotes a religious structure. In early settled America, the church was typically one of the first buildings put up when settlers established in a new area. No other buildings built thereafter in the community were made larger, with the possible exception of a few barns. Even today, local churches from these early periods stand across the U.S. as some of the oldest buildings around.”
Steeples have a historic significance.
So this takes me back to growing up in Salem, NJ, where I was a member of First Presbyterian Church. Many generations of my family worshiped there before me.
My earliest memories include sitting with my grandmother, and my parents, in the old wooden pews. Always on the left, about half way up.
The building itself is a landmark:
“First Presbyterian Church of Salem was built in 1856 by architect John McArthur, designer of City Hall in Philadelphia. With its imposing 165-foot steeple, the church is a fixture of the Salem skyline and a prominent landmark in the downtown historic district. https://www.nj.gov/dca/njht/funded/sitedetails/firstpresbyterianchurchofsalem.shtml
“Our building is a landmark in South Jersey with its soaring steeple reaching into the sky. Lighted at night it is a beacon to mariners in the Delaware Bay. Salem is a historic city, with many structures in Salem predating the founding of our nation.”
The church building is magnificent; small crosses arise from the spires encircling the central steeple. South Jersey is farming country, so it is flat and open land. Driving at night, the steeple could be seen for miles, assuring me as I made my way home.
More to the Story
The true purpose of the steeple, and the building itself, is what I learned from my earliest days. I was taught by members of the congregation. Scriptures were opened. Hymns were sung. To this day I can still sing all the verses of the oldest, sacred hymns.(See Songs of Thankfulness.)
And certain Scriptures came alive through the symbolism of that place:
Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the mountains; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Sacred music taught me to “lift my eyes” including Felix Mendelssohn’s Oratorio Elijah: “Lift Thine Eyes.” It remains a favorite of mine to this day.
In contemporary Christian music, Bebo Norman released “I will lift my eyes” in 2006 that reflects this dynamic:
“I will lift my eyes to the Maker of the mountains I can’t climb I will lift my eyes to the Calmer of the oceans raging wild I will lift my eyes to the Healer
of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You.”
And so the sacred Texts were implanted in my heart.
Sacred music laid a foundation for it to be nourished and take root. The “faith of our fathers” was handed down generation to generation. The things of our life are never trivial or without purpose.
God uses them to lift our eyes to Himself.
And we can be assured He uses all things for our good.
Amazing Grace and Home
Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
The Steeple: All day and all night
The Steeple was a reminder of the truths of Scripture and Song.
As I lay in the hospital, I watched the interplay of sunrise, and then sunset.
By night, it was lit up and my early morning awakenings were assured by its’ glow. It brought a deep comfort to me to know it was there. Yes, I had been through many dangers, toils and snares.
The Steeple was a reminder of Biblical Truths: It was a reassurance He had brought me safe thus far; His Grace would lead me home.