Antreville Wedding, Abbeville Bricks

Officiating a wedding is one of the most under-appreciated functions that a pastor can perform. It’s not that way every time, obviously, but parents with money and families of society tend to view the church sanctuary as their private gazebo and the clergy as a noisy part of the chancel furniture. Wedding policies, in their minds, are for people without enough extroverted gumption to circumvent or ignore them. Mention of God is tolerated, just as long as it is clear that the bride is the center of attention and the reason we are all here. The fact that I don’t allow such nonsense to prevail in weddings that I lead keeps me safely away from the gates of society’s plush boundary. And I’m pretty okay with that, except for some sadness for those who can’t realize the loud emptiness of what they call the good life. But even when the pastor doesn’t gently redirect the parents’ misguided wishes, appreciation is low. As soon as the pastor dismisses the congregation to the reception, he or she is then dismissed from further thought by the wedding’s party. There is no intent to develop relationship with the church, but mainly pragmatic recognition that the church is bigger than the clubhouse, prettier than the Moose Lodge, and less expensive than either. (This discussion is primarily true for non-church members; members whose children get married in the church are generally better, and those occasions are great blessings.)

But that’s not what I wanted to write about. (How long has that been brewing?!) I got to attend a wedding this past weekend, and it was fun. A cousin was married at Shiloh United Methodist Church in Antreville, where I was raised, so it was a nice little homecoming for me. I saw people who were my Sunday School teachers when I was a kid and a high school friend I had not seen since high school. Cousins came from Tennessee and Charleston and Hilton Head, and I got to sit in the pew and be one of them.

The wedding accomplished, we stood under the old cedar trees where the men used to smoke between Sunday School and preaching, and caught up with each other. Then we drove to Abbeville. Here’s a photo of some of the gathered cousins, taken inside the Belmont Inn, the site of the reception:

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The couple dancing on the porch while wedding party and guests stand around.

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To make an odd posting even moreso, let me show you some pictures of bricks. I like bricks, and Abbeville has lots of them.

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The Belmont Inn

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The Opera House

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The Courthouse

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The Main Street Square, and old buildings with antique shops

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After I drove away and was headed back home toward Lancaster, I remembered that I never spoke to the pastor. He was not the pastor of that church, and I didn’t know him, but I still wanted to say hello. I saw him at the reception, standing with a koozie-wrapped beer bottle and talking to some other guests, but I never broke away from the cousin hilarity to speak. Hmmm. I wonder how he felt about the whole thing. I just hope some folks from the family made him more welcome than I did.

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Published in: on April 28, 2008 at 9:59 pm  Comments (7)  

Between

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Published in: on April 26, 2008 at 12:00 pm  Comments (5)  

The River

It was a genuine joy to be paddling again. Nothing literary here, just some images and lists of things noticed.

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Spring green.

Many fishermen were out in boats. One boat, with two men and a small engine, could not outrun me.

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These six balls I pulled out of shoreline trash. They look like a small solar system. I also saw five other basketballs and a volleyball. (Click here for a related posting.)

A dragonfly rode the tip of my bow for a long distance.

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A few birds, in random order: Great Blue Herons, Green Heron, Osprey (several), Spotted Sandpipers, Barred Owl, Northern Paurla, Hooded Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Double-crested Cormorant, Carolina Chickadee, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallows, Turkey Vultures, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Red-eyed Vireos, White-eyed Vireo.

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Looking uphill — the rapids at Landsford Canal.

Many fish were popping the surface all around me below the rapids. I paddled over to some fishermen and asked what they were catching, and one of them said white bass. I don’t know white bass, but he caught one during the minute I was there, and then so did his buddy.

Once while floating slowly in the middle of the river, a snake head appeared in front of the kayak, its body swishing side-to-side behind. I paused to see if it wished to come aboard, but it submerged, apparently continuing its fishing excursion.

Two kayakers drove up as I was ending my trip. As I lifted the Q700X out of the river and placed it on the shore, the man said, “I’ll bet that thing can fly!” “Yes.” They were new to me, so we made introductions. Their boats: Perception Carolina and Wilderness Systems Pamlico. We were all using the same paddle, though: Werner Camino. As they drifted away downstream, I wanted to be back out there with them.

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Published in: on April 24, 2008 at 11:53 pm  Comments (2)  

Reptiles at Rest

It was a bird field trip at a bird festival, but my pictures are of scaly things. Friday and Saturday I was scheduled to lead field trips for the 1st Annual Santee Bird Festival, in Santee, South Carolina. I had to cancel my participation on Saturday because of the funeral to which I alluded in my previous posting. But on Friday afternoon, nine birders plus myself hiked the loop at the Pine Island unit of Santee National Wildlife Refuge. We had a great time, locating 55 species of birds in three-and-a-half hours, while walking about five miles. The conversation was lighthearted, educational, refreshing. Here are two critters we found in between bird moments.

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A greenish rat snake! It is an intergrade between the black rat snake and yellow rat snake. It only occurs where the ranges of black and yellow meet. I got very close to this one, but it never moved.

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This one also never moved, but I did not get very close to it. It was maybe ten feet long and quite fat. A larger one in a different area remained mostly submerged and harder to see. (This photo was actually taken during my solo morning scouting walk of the area. As I walked along quickly but quietly, startled alligators would thrash their way into the water and disappear. My peripheral vision caught one as it went airborne toward the water — leapin’ lizards! My afternoon group got to see this large gator, too, but it sank into the water before we got this close.)

Published in: on April 21, 2008 at 4:45 pm  Comments (6)  

I Don’t Know What to Title Something Like This

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Wednesday afternoon, I washed the winter dust and spring pollen from the kayak, preparing for a trip to Murrell’s Inlet with the Body Challenge, Spirit Challenge group. But I won’t be going. A young man died from head injuries received in a motorcycle accident, and I’m pastorally involved. He was 22, and his grandparents are my church members. The rest of the family is without a church, so I’m there. It is the work of faith to stand in the presence of answerless questions and honor God’s pain. Quietly and loudly, we do.

Published in: on April 17, 2008 at 8:41 am  Comments (2)  

A Friendly Recognition from a Very Fine Blog

Sophie, the author of Florida Cracker Crumbs, was recently chosen to receive an “Excellent” award for her blog. In accepting it, she chose Balance as one of ten blogs that she would like to recognize, as well. Thank you very much, Sophie! I feel honored that you think so.

Published in: on April 14, 2008 at 2:50 pm  Comments (2)  

Change

This morning I performed a wedding.

This afternoon I performed a funeral.

When I got home from the video store, this was among the 96ยข in my pocket.

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A Mercury dime! Produced from 1916 to 1945, it’s one of the coins I really enjoyed when I was a child collecting coins. My first one was a ’42, and every one I ever obtained seemed beautiful and elegant to me. I wonder how this one found its way into 2008 commerce, seventy years after being minted.

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This is one of only 6 million that were minted in Denver in 1938, as opposed to 22 million in Philadelphia and 8 million in San Francisco. The highest production year of this coin was 1944, with 231 million in Philadelphia, 62 million in Denver, and 49 million in San Francisco.

In 1946, the Mercury dime was replaced by the Roosevelt dime, the uninteresting design still used today. That’s a long time for a coin design to persist. I wonder if it will ever change.

Published in: on April 12, 2008 at 9:58 pm  Comments (3)