I found out first thing this morning that my beloved St. Matthew's Episcopal Church burned to the ground in an absolutely devastating fire last night. The church was built in the late 1800's and known throughout my home town for it's beautifully constructed cypress gothic style architecture, and gorgeous stained glass windows. I just can't believe it's quite literally all gone.
I went to school there from age 4 to age 13. I went to church most Sundays with my grandmother (for whom Mary Louise is named). Brent and I were married there. It was a place of peace for me, for my family, for so many. It was more than a building...and more than a place of worship. It was absolutely, and without question, part of our family. This place had a soul that could be felt no matter what religion or creed one practiced.
I know that any church is made up of its people. But this place, was. sacred. The people were (and are) amazing. But this was a place that I could go - without anyone there - and sit for hours. Just sit in awe of its serene beauty.
Brent and I had our wedding ceremony inside the church itself and I am both proud and sad to say that we were the only couple ever to have our reception just outside with a tent dropped under the historically protected oak trees. It was beautiful, it was comfortable, it was what a wedding reception should be - a fabulous celebration - and a great party!
There was a kid in my family attending school there for 21 years. Everyday there was one of us there, my grandmother was there - volunteering in the library. She took us to school everyday. She doctored all of our scraped knees courtesy of the rough and tumble playground. If we were sick, we need not look farther than a few hundred feet away - she was there. It made St. Matthew's our "other" home. I would happily follow her into the church after school hours to "pick up the linens" which she would take home and wash in her special concoctions made specifically to get all of the church ladies' lipstick stains out.
In recent years, St. Matthew's church served as host for the only baby shower I had - with triplets in tow. They prayed more prayers for this family and those babies than I can even wrap my mind around. My dad's and grandmother's funerals have both been there.
I was lucky enough to finally bring Mary Louise and David to church there over the summer. The church had completed the meditation and memorial garden just outside under the trees and I put David on my dad's bench and took photos.
It is truly one of the first places I think of when something wonderful, or something tragic happens, when I need a little peace, support, understanding, guidance...
I will miss my dear family member and quiet friend. I hold my precious memories close and tight and am nothing short of devastated to know that there won't be any more...
Prayers and peace to the family and friends of St. Matthew's Episcopal church and school tonight...and for many nights to come.