From September of 1991, a photo of myself building a cross for my old church’s backyard sanctuary.
To Build A Cross
By Richard Mabey Jr.
One of my greatest accomplishments is that I once built a cross for my old church’s backyard sanctuary. It was September of 1991. I was serving as a Deacon of the Protestant Church of my old hometown. This was the very church where I went to Sunday School as a child.
For as long as I could remember, going back to the time when I was six years old, there had always been a cross standing at the head of the down-home backyard sanctuary at my church. I don’t know what happened. Maybe the wind took it, maybe the wood rotted away, maybe insects infested it. But throughout the Summer of 1991, there was no cross in the dear old backyard sanctuary.
So, one Saturday morning, I took it upon myself to build a cross for the quaint and charming backyard sanctuary. I woke up early that Saturday morning at the crack of dawn and walked the path in the woods, behind my old homestead, to the old Morris Canal. There along side the still and murky waters of the historic canal, I cut down a sapling tree. I still have mixed feelings about doing that. To this day, even though it was sacrificed for a good cause, I regret cutting down that tree. Oh, how I do regret cutting down that tree.
After cutting down the sapling, I cut the branches free from the main trunk of the tree. Then, I measured out two proportional lengths to construct the cross and sawed the tree into two pieces. Then, I dragged the two pieces of sapling up the path to my home. When I got home, I put the sapling pieces in the trunk of my car. They were overhanging, so I tied a red cloth at the end of the longest sapling piece. I went inside and had a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal.
I then got into my car and drove the mile down Route 202 and then onto Chapel Hill Road to my dear and wonderful little church. I tied the sapling with lashing rope. I used a square lashing, which I had learned how to tie from my days as a scout. I dug a narrow hole, quite deep to secure the cross into the ground.
I placed the base of the cross securely into the deep, narrow hole. Then I filled the empty space on the sides with gravel and rocks. Then, filled the remaining empty spaces of the narrow hole with the clay earth, that I had just dug out to form the narrow hole.
And, there once again stood the beloved cross, in my old church’s backyard sanctuary. I have to confess that I was rather proud of myself. I felt that I had taken the initiative to do something worthwhile. I had taken my role as a Deacon of the church seriously. I had accomplished something.
The next morning, right after church, we had our little tea and coffee fellowship time. I remember this like it was yesterday. I was taking the wrapper off of my tea bag, putting the tea bag into the white styrofoam cup and pouring the hot water from the hot water pitcher into my cup; when I heard two church members talking.
“Who the heck put that cross up there in the sanctuary,” Mr. Big said to the Pastor. Mr. Big was a big giver to the church. Everything about Mr. Big was big. He had a big gut, he had a big mouth, and he had no restraints about bragging that he was a big giver to the church.
“I don’t know, but I’ll find out,” the Pastor replied with a smile.
“Well I’ll tell ya’ Pastor, it’s not what I had in mind. I was gonna tell ya’ that I could have some of my boys build a cross made out of railroad ties. I think that would be seen a lot easier from the road out here as people go by. Ya’ know what I mean, Pastor? I figure it would have more pizzazz to it then that wabbly thing someone just threw together. Ya’ get what I’m sayin’ Pastor?” Old Mr. Big boasted with his hot air and bad breath.
Well, guess what readers? September of 1991 came and went. And, by the time the kids were knocking on doors and hollering, “trick or treat,” old Mr. Big got his way. My precious sapling cross was dumped in the woods behind the outdoor sanctuary. And, yes, it was replaced by this rather odd-looking cross made of big, thick black railroad ties.
I should have seen the writing on the wall then. But, I didn’t. Well, I think I did, but I didn’t want to admit it. This was my dear and precious little church where I went to Sunday School as a child. But, alas, truth is often painful. My denial of what was happening to my precious little church, only left me with more deeper emotional hurts over the next few years.
Eventually I moved on to another church. Best thing I could have ever done. Jesus was right, a prophet knows no honor in his own hometown.
Peace and harmony,