“Catching The Spirit” | Blog #30

“Catching The Spirit” | Blog #30

Picture gallery at the bottom of the blog!

Last Thursday, just before heading home, I visited the stunningly beautiful Basilica in St. Louis. What caught my eye was a Pentecost mosaic that reminded me that Pentecost was coming. Indeed, yesterday was the celebration of the Spirit’s outpouring on the church and I hated that I was back on the road for a long drive, rather than being in church. But I was comforted meditating on the Basilica’s mosaic and the Pentecost stained-glass window I saw in St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague. The drive from home to Virginia allowed me to meditate on the Spirit’s movement in my own life and in the life of Westminster. The image for the church in ancient art and iconography is a boat. But it is always a boat with a sail. The sail is held up with a cross and is driven by the Spirit. As WPC charts its future, may we be open to ever learning how to trim our sails to catch the Spirit.

This week I travel through Virginia and DC to see friends, Ben, and visit sights that I’ve long wanted to explore. My first stop yesterday was Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s “country retreat” in Bedford County, VA. It was where he hid out during the early days of the Revolution when he was being hunted by Tories and the British, but it became the place he would escape to when too many people came to Monticello. I’ve long wanted to come to PF, but especially since learning that Westminster member, Doug Cruickshanks, was part of the initiative to save the property, buy it back from private owners, and preserve it for the public. Before COVID he did a program for our Changing Gears on PF that stoked my interest. When I arrived to buy my ticket yesterday afternoon the gracious woman behind the counter explained Mr. Cruickshanks had called and arranged for my tour and purchasing a ticket wasn’t necessary. Thanks Doug!

It was a spectacularly beautiful day. The first thing that caught my eye was the soaring 200-year-old Poplar trees in the front of the house. Jefferson designed it himself and personally staked out the complicated octagonal footprint. At the center of the house is the “cube room” that measures 20x20x20 and features a skylight. This beautiful brick structure, so simple yet revolutionary, is a national treasure. One needs to drive through suburban neighborhoods to get to Poplar Forest, and you sense how fortunate we are that Doug and others were able to purchase the property when they did to stop the encroachment to preserve this important piece of our history. 

Driving to Poplar Forest I went through Bedford, VA, the city that has the distinction of losing the most of its sons on D-Day.  There were 30 National Guard soldiers from Bedford serving in Company A, 116th Infantry, 29th Infantry Division, who landed together on Omaha Beach. Among the 2,403 Americans killed in the D-Day invasion were 19 “Bedford Boys.” It’s hard not to think of that loss whenever you come this way. On a previous trip I visited the National D-Day Memorial just outside Bedford that is one of the most unique and moving memorials I have ever seen. I write on the anniversary of D-Day and am drinking my morning tea out of a 75th Anniversary D-Day mug I picked up at the Eisenhower Library last week. 

This morning I head off to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library here in Staunton, VA. Wilson’s father was the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church here, right across the street from Mary Baldwin University. Westminster’s John Cowan had served this historic church as well, before returning to Nashville and finishing his ministry as WPC’s Pastoral Care minister. I can’t help but think of John and Dakie while I’m here.

This afternoon I’ll drive to the little town of Amissville, VA where my old American University housemate, Alan Zuschlag, has Touchstone Farm. We’ll be met there by AU Communications legend, Mike Roselli, who was a CNN political producer for his career. Tonight, I’ll finish closer into DC to visit with HS & College friend, Jennette Chu, who actually followed my intended path and became a Foreign Service Officer. So, it will be a full day of reconnecting with friends and musing about history.