- By: Anne Beaver
I have heard of being on cloud nine but never really thought much about what that feels like until this week. I had the sacred privilege of marrying my son and his bride this past Saturday at the lovely Chateau Elan in Braselton, Georgia, outside Atlanta. I have never been associated with such an elaborate wedding and the planning by the bride’s parents and the bride and groom could not have been more detailed or sensitive. It was extremely important to them that everyone feel welcomed, loved and connected. My husband and I enjoyed the opportunity to host the rehearsal dinner in the lovely Cask Room at the on-site winery and the toasts shared that evening were all so supportive and encouraging of the couple and their families.
Though the ceremony was held in an open space near a restaurant and in full view of the hotel guest passing through the lobby, it was so beautifully decorated and family and friends so deeply engaged, that it felt worshipful. The earnest look on the face of my son and the delight in the eyes of both my son and now daughter, as they shared their vows of love and faithfulness, was inspiring. In some weddings, the ceremony is not as valued a component as the party afterwards, but this was clearly not the case in this lovely wedding.
It set me to thinking about what creates sacred space and that may be the reason why on the way home, as we took back roads and avoided the interstate that my husband is averse to, I noticed the structure of faith houses along the way. One was an old clapboard structure that had been a church but was now a place for music lessons including guitar, voice and piano. I thought of the many hymns that had no doubt been sung in that sacred space and wondered if the students and instructors there ever felt surrounded by faith and hope as they practiced.
Another looked like a traditional church with wide steps that covered the expanse of the front up to a landing or porch. But instead of having two central doors, it had only a single bright red door on each side of the front. It seemed odd not to have central door and I wondered about the story behind that decision. I have since learned that the men entered one door and sat on one side of the church and the women on the other. Apparently this architecture was also true in old school houses to separate the girls and the boys. The red color has meaning as well though it is unclear just what meaning. Some say it represents Passover, others the Holy Spirit, still others the blood of Christ. Some say it signifies holy ground, paid debt, or a place of refuge.
We passed a building that was very impressive, made of stone, and set up on a hill. What was peculiar about this house of worship was the surroundings. Maybe the zoning laws were lax, but there was a small working farm just behind the building and to the left, and a few out-buildings off to the right, as if the house of worship was set down in the middle of someone’s property. It seemed like a parable about the ways in which our worship might best be integrated into our lives every day.
Though I missed it, my grandson, Rowen, commented on a church that was in the shape of a star in the town of Bethlehem, Georgia. We learned that Bethlehem was founded by someone of that surname, and not a reference to the Holy Land, so they had apparently taken good advantage of the association.
The most unusual worship center that I saw was one in which the steeple was not positioned not on top of the building but on the portico at the side door. Maybe it was less expensive to hoist the steeple up to the top of the portico than the warehouse-like structure that was the main building. But I wonder if it was not intentional, as a reminder that as worshippers come and as they go, they bring the presence of God, which is signified by the steeple, with them.
To be on cloud nine is to be closer to heaven, like a steeple, and that is where I have been since the lovely marriage of my son. Whether through family bonds or houses of worship, I hope you, too, are on cloud nine sometime soon.