The Little Church That Could II

Sunday Kelly, Sterling, Jerry and I went to Fr. David Hoster’s last sermon at St. George’s Episcopal in Austin. There was a reception afterwards, and we hoped to see lots of friends from the old days.

We were not disappointed. There were beloved faces not seen for years, and a slide show of the fall retreat at Camp Allen, where we shared with the congregation our hopes to build Down Home Ranch and received their blessing. Kelly was a little peanut on the playground.

Some familiar faces who looked pretty much like they did 20 years ago proved to be the adult children of old friends! That was sobering.

Fr. David’s sermon dwelt on hearing the words of the gospel. We’ve all experienced the “I know you believe you understood what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant” phenomenon.

Happens in church, too. Words…logos… a brain sends a signal to a mouth and sounds travel from it to an ear which transmits something to another brain.

What I hear depends a lot on who I am.

Jerry says that soon after we started going to St. George’s he became haunted by the words, “Do this,” which are chanted each Sunday during the Eucharist. “Do this in memory of me.”

For him, it became a command to build the Ranch for Kelly and others like her.

I was astonished to realize that our time at St. George’s spanned little more than a year and a half. The period looms so large in our lives! During it Kelly was baptized, as was Jerry’s mom Estelle, at the age of 85.

Uncle Carroll, who met us in the park and urged us to come to St. George’s became Kelly’s godfather. He also became the first president of the Board of Directors of Down Home Ranch and remained so for the next decade.

When we demurred that we could not possibly go to Cursillo, what with having to care for Grandma and Kelly at home, friends and resources materialized as if magic and moved in to take over.

And once we closed on the land that would become Down Home Ranch, we bought its first resident, a large jenny we named Blossom. She traveled to her new home in a trailer borrowed from a friend at church, as Mark, another friend from church rode next to her for 65 miles, singing softly into her enormous ear to keep her calm.

Ray and Elizabeth, friends from church, moved to the Ranch for several months, clearing land and planting gardens.

We held an All Hallow’s Eve celebration in the old barn for the little kids, who sat bug-eyed in the lantern light as we acted out a dramatization of the story of the witch of Endor. As Samuel rose up out of the casket Blossom picked the moment to deliver herself of a rousing bray, which raised the hair on the assembled adults as the kids flocked to them in terror.

We held on at St. George’s as long as we could, but after about a year of commuting it was time to face up to the fact that we could no longer play a meaningful role there from such a distance, and transferred our letter to St. James, Taylor.

Fr. David wrapped up his 20 years at St. George’s just as we are beginning to wrap up our first 20 at the Ranch. Few now at the church know much about Down Home Ranch. Few at the Ranch know anything at all about St. George’s.

But the old folks living in Benedict House do, and we’re forever grateful to our little church that could, and to the man who, week after week, gave us spiritual food for thought, who told us, “Don’t let money make the decision” and then helped equip us with the faith needed to move into a tiny mobile home one 215 raw acres and name it “Mustard Seed.”

“See what manner of love the Father has given unto us.”