Monday, February 27, 2012

Poolesville Presbyterian Church Creation Story

As part of my Doctor of Ministry program, one of the post-course requirements was addition to producing about 25 pages worth of followup papers...I also needed to craft a "Creation Story" for my current congregation.  Given the long and interesting history of Poolesville Presbyterian, this looked to be a fun exercise.

And so into the written histories of the church I dove.  I talked with long term members of the church.  Here's a wee kirk that still inhabits its wee sanctuary after 150 years, with a short hiatus to catch its breath.  The Civil War rumbled through, as did the rise of industrial agriculture (which strangled the local economy) and the spread of nearby Washington DC (which both grew and changed it).    It's a good story.

But when I looked to the model for the Creation Story, I found that it was just a chronology.  The church started on such-and-such a date.  It had X number of members.  Then it did this.  Then it did that.  Fine for a web site's "About" page, I guess.  It just didn't seem particularly like a Creation Story as I understand it.

Creation stories are myth and poetry.  They don't just describe an event.  They speak meaning into the telling of that event.   The language they use isn't that of the boardroom or the annual report, or the church history.   It's the language of the camp fireside, as the warmth of the fire crackles and flickers across the faces of those gathered, and the blarney-kissed lips of the raconteur start spilling out a tale.    It's how we passed the time in that era before little glowing Retina Displays sucked out our souls.

And so I got it in to my head to take a swing at writing just such a myth.   It came out easy enough.   "How Poolesville Presbyterian Came To Be" was a fun story to write.   But then, because the language I was using was a, I felt it needed a bit more.  I visualized it as a children's book, or a short video.

For several days, I took a swing at producing that video, using GarageBand and iMovie, the tools at my disposal.   It felt good creating it, but then I stepped back and perused it.   It was not a great feeling.   Sometimes, when you create something, it isn't quite the thing you hoped it would be, like seeing a video of you delivering that sermon that you thought was so awesome and discovering...well...perhaps you should have gotten that big blob of spinach out of your teeth first.

Oh, I like the text well enough, even if it does sound a bit like something you'd have encountered in a 1970s second grade classroom, as the long-haired boyfriend of your pretty young not-quite-ex-hippie teacher was brought in with his guitar to do some folk songs and fable-telling.  That was kind of my goal.

But the video?   Meh.  The voiceover reflects the limitations of my mike.   And I couldn't quite find a "voice" that worked.   My own didn't fly.  I tried a deeper variant of the voice used in the intro to the Monkey Magic videos, but that just came across as vaguely racist.   And so I lapsed into a very slightly exaggerated drawl, which worked...ish.

And after futzing around with music for a while, I mistakenly assumed that something pseudo-Native American would sound appropriate.  Instead, it just pours New Age melted queso all over the first minute and a half or so.  I should have gone all bluegrass.

But as the perfect is the enemy of the good, I figure this is where it is for now.

And the best stories are embellished over time, right?


How Poolesville Presbyterian Church Came to Be, 
Why the Little Church turned Red

A Fable for Children of All Ages

In the morning of the dawn of all things, rain fell on the green Western mountains.   It danced down and snaked to the east, seeking the sea.   At one place, it turned for a moment, confused, then turned again and moved towards the smell of far off sea.
In that one place, that crook in the river, ages passed, and trees rose and fell and rose again.  The footprints of men and deer speckled the ground in the wooded places, but the woods were silent except for the cry of the hawks, the nattering of the squirrels, and the soft talk of men on the hunt.
Then other folk came, louder folk, and the trees fell, and the loud folk cast seeds upon the ground.  Up sprouted wheat and tobacco and corn.   
One of those seeds was different, and that seed grew into a church.   It wasn’t a big church, and the shadows of the tall corn fell dark across it.  It wasn’t a loud church, and liked to sit and think.  The loud folk didn’t notice it much, so little there in the shade.
And so it sat there thinking, small and peaceful-like, in that place in the crook of the river.  It sang a thoughtful little Jesus song, and got to laughing to itself now and again at the stuff it thought up.
Soon after the little church had sprung from the earth, the Great Harvester rose and walked the land.  It was the season of the harvest of men, and men rose like wheat from the earth, row upon row by the tens of thousands.  All was mud and fear and noise.   Some sought quiet in the little church, and it opened to them, and welcomed them, and sang them its sweet quiet little song.   
But the Great Harvester reached in and took them, and the brick of the church grew red with shame that its song could not protect them.  Then the Great Harvester walked to the fields of men, and took a rich harvest.   Those all broken up by his trampling were brought into the little church, and it grew redder still with the stain of their life.
And then with baskets full and the shadows growing long on the earth, the Great Harvester walked on south.  The place in the crook of the river grew all quiet again.  
The little red church kept singing its sweet thoughtful little Jesus song.  Years piled on top of years, each one just exactly the same as the other, and the little church grew tired.  Its voice grew weak, and its song grew so quiet it could barely hear it itself.  So it decided it was maybe time to rest a while.  It closed its eyes, and went to sleep.
But down the snake of the river, halfway to the sea, the loud folk had grown till there wasn’t any more room to grow.  So they came a walking back up to the crook of the river, and cast down their seeds again upon the ground.  Up sprouted shiny cars and blacksnake roads and big houses, and the shadows of the big houses fell dark across the little sleeping church.
The sound of all those loud goings-on woke the little red church up again, and it opened its eyes.  It gave a yawn, and shook the cobwebs out of its head, and started thinking and humming and singing that sweet song again, just a little bit louder now so folks might hear over all the noise.
And to this day, that’s where that little church sits, singing its song in the shadow of the big houses, nestled in the crook of the river, in between the sea and the green Western mountains.