Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Purchased from the Thomas Page company for "$100 in gold coin" on "lot 7 of block 7", and constructed of redwood in 1907, the Church of the Oaks in Cotati, California, has been in the same location on the corner of Page and West Sierra since its construction. The one room, unimposing, white building has watched over this town from its grassy lot for 100 years.

Prior to the service where I would speak to the small congregation, I sat noiselessly in the modest, tranquil sanctuary, infused with the presence of a century of people who sat where I was now. Some lives began here; others heard their final tribute; now the life-energy of each was as much a part of this building as its stained glass windows or bell tower.

Within these hardy, dark, handcrafted, timber walls, I imagined Edna Meriwether given in holy matrimony to William Johnson, encircled by the local gathering of family and friends. The church bell chimed a joyous noise that echoed through the small burg; while outside, next to the magnificent oak, the sound of fiddles, dancing, and carefree conversation drifted through the trees.

Sarah Williamson listened to the minister as he eulogized the premature passing of her husband, Jonah, when his tractor rolled on him while he plowed the fields one foggy morning during the 1930s. He had tilled the same patch of earth since he was a boy. This spot where Emmanuel, their son, had been baptized, was Jonah's last stop before he was lowered into the Earth.

The flock sought solace in this place during times of urgency. Sermons of spiritual import were delivered from its pulpit as it listened intently with somber understanding. It rejoiced to banjo music on weekend dances; and was uplifted by hymns of praise at Sunday service.

The church stood witness to it all. Although constructed of redwood and bound together by nails and screws, these walls reflected the heart of a community. If one listened, one could hear the beating, rhythmic, pulsing, formed over decades.

Each of us is a sanctuary of our own past. We are not simply what we our present; but we carry within all that has come before, from unlimited voices and countless decisions. We each hold dear a rich history, some of it unfortunate, some truly glorious. Yet it is all came together to where we stand now. Every past choice, whether correct or in error, set us upon a path to today. Whether good or bad or in between, we cannot return.

Yet, we are not locked at this time. Each and every choice we make today will become our history tomorrow.

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