Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  169                             Cumulative Days Blogging: 154

Today’s Mileage: 5                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 1129

In my most recent blog I spoke about my strong disagreement with a historian’s statement about the future as an “apathetic void of no interest to anyone.”  I highlighted what I believe is the importance of the “here-and-now” and the “possibilities” of the future.  I’ve had a discussion with several people about this point and I wanted to clarify my views a bit further.

Life is a balancing act!

I recognize that our attention can easily be drawn to the past like an intriguing movie or play.  We often know some of the characters by name (i.e.., Generals and Presidents, siblings and parents), we know some of the locations by experience (i.e., battlefields and Capitals, childhood homes) and we often know how the story ends (i.e., who wins the battles and the war, where people are now).  By delving deeper into the story (our shared or individual past) we often discover new scenes, intriguing relationships and hidden plot twists that had escaped our earlier awareness. While the past can offer insights as to how we got to where we are today and at times offer possible solutions to current problems, our decisions have to be imbedded in the present and take into account the forces at play in the here-and-now.

I am always suspicious when people like the Tea Party activists, frame our present problems as identical or closely related to that which occurred hundreds of years ago.  I remember seeing where a local church was advertising that it was “First Century Christianity in the Twenty First Century!”  This appeared to be based on the fact that their “church” had no physical building, but met on a rotating basis in members homes. I see that statement as being nonsensical or at least historically inaccurate.  Who knows for sure what first century Christianity looked like!   It was a product of a time and place that no longer exists.  It represented a new movement (not an established faith or societal institution) pitted against an established institutional religion (paganism) and was being persecuted (not embraced by the society’s leaders) and forced to operate under a cloak of secrecy (the fish symbol and hidden meetings). Whereas now Christianity is an established religion and social institution, it operates in the open, it controls many media mouthpieces and counts a majority of the nation’s leaders among its members.  What this church was offering was a variation of twenty first century Christianity! I also suspect that once their membership grows large enough they too will purchase a church building!  At that time I guess they will need to market themselves as “third century Christianity” or just join the rest of us in the present!

Dwelling on the Past

Small islands of pink granite

Stretch like a chain of pearls

The strand lies broken

Large gaps separate them

Filled with swirling waters

Brown, green and murky

Even the lone goose   

     navigates the eddies with caution

Only a giant or NBA center

     could transverse these stepping stones

Small rock outcroppings

     In the center of the river

Human free sanctuaries

     Sporting clumps of trees and scrubs

Is it wrong to wish

     for the droughts return?

When the main channel was a slow moving stream

     And bridges of stepping stones

     Offered walkways to green islands

     Far from the noisy picnickers

     And their second hand smoke

****

Several month ago I blogged on one aspect of the challenge we face on our spiritual journey.  I quoted an Ani DeFranco’s song: “When I look down I miss the good stuff (scenes about us and on the horizon) and when I look up I just trip over things (obstacles at our feet)”.   I noted that one of the challenges on our journey is find a rhythm and balance between stopping to look up (checking out the road ahead) and then moving a distance while glancing down to watch your footing.  I would like to add our current discussion of the importance of the past to this analogy. 

Some times there are warning signs!

The  challenge is to find a rhythm and balance on your journey through life among three components: First, we must at times stop and look up toward our future path, see our goals, look for forks (decision points) in the road ahead, note if there is a blind turn in the road or signs of adverse weather. If you fail to do this with sufficient frequency or adequate attention to detail you will be “surprised” and “blind sided” by forks in the road, washed out bridges or dangerous and threatening situations that seemingly “just happen.”  Secondly, at times we need to stop and glance over our shoulders into the past, to see if the surrounding scenery looks familiar and ask how our past choices have shaped our current situation, look for reoccurring patterns (like what happened the last time when the fuel light lit up on our dashboard and we ignored it).  While we cannot backtrack and redo an earlier choice we often can make future choices that steer us back toward our stated goals, or we can reevaluate our future goals to match future possibilities. Lastly, we always have to remember to move forward while focusing on life’s moment-to-moment demands on the path about our feet.  Be attentive to the moment-to-moment changes in our relationships, the unexpected delays and detours, the multitude of small seemingly simple choices that occur.  It is not the past or the future that trips us up, it is life unfolding and playing out at our feet, which includes repeating patterns and predictable events and choices!

Some events just feel familiar!

I find it ironic that three days ago there were many people around the world who had plans to travel to and from Europe on vacation and/or business.  Then an event that no one had any control over, the eruption of a volcano hundreds of miles away brought much of the world air traffic to a halt.  This acts as a reminder that the “best laid plans” are just that: “plans”!  Some events (often called acts of God or Nature) just appear with little or no warning… welcome to the balancing act we call life!

Why?

Perhaps I was a bit too hasty

In cursing the high water

On an island well out of reach

A dozen large turtles

Bask in the midday sun

Further down the shoreline

A young man

And his three bikini clad companions

Occupy an island

I watch with amusement

And appreciation

Their slow and noisy

Return to shore

It was a slippery journey

But leaves me with a question

Why do young girls

Scream so much?

****

Water + Sun + Friends = A Basking Moment!

I hope you enjoy the two poems I included today.  They were the product of my river walk that took place several days earlier.  Tomorrow we return to our pilgrimage journey across northern Florida.

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page!

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  168                              Cumulative Days Blogging: 153

Today’s Mileage: 4                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 1124

I dictated this blog earlier in the day, as I walked along a river at a spot I have visited a dozen of times in the past.  I’ve conversed with nature, walked on the rocks, watched the geese and strolled past the other park visitors.  It is a beautiful spring day and I decided to enjoy it.  As a Taoist all I need is natural surroundings, the sounds of nature, open air, waters is always nice, whether its rain, a rushing river, or a calm pool.  This place has often inspired poetic words, and today was no different, but I will save those for a later day.

I had not planned on stopping here as I headed to the University this morning.  We are heading into that last sprint to the end of the semester.  In my Psychology of Religion class I spent too long on the Eastern Faiths so I will have to compress monotheism into a single lecture.  But then I prefer for my students to explore new territories and discover new ideas rather than review that which they already know. 

There is always two sides!

Earlier I had a break from my class and sat in the commons area.  On a rack next to one of the history professors door was a stack of magazines and journals. I opened one to an article entitled “Contested Histories.”  The author spoke of the challenge of understanding historical events that have different meaning for the opposite sides of the event.  Northerners (Yankees) have a very different take on the American Civil War than Southerners (Rebels).  Even in the south there are two “contested histories!”  If your distant relatives were slaves the war can be seen as a war of liberation and freedom, if your distant relatives fought for the confederacy it is often portrayed as a war for state’s rights or a war against northern aggression!  The historian in his article mentioned the date of 1915 and events that took place in eastern Turkey as the Ottoman Empire was engaged in a desperate struggle for its survival during World War 1.  A large proportion of the Armenian population died or was displaced from their homes. The Turkish perspective says this was the result of a civil war in which the Armenians were active participants; the Armenians perspective sees active government sponsored “genocide” to remove their culture and communities from eastern Anatolia.  Who is right and who is wrong?  Does one view win out over another?  Will both sides simply cling to their position, as “the truth” might represent a “blow” to their national identity or necessitate embracing a shared sense of guilt?

Peace after the civil conflict!

Ottoman Empire!

When I listen to talk radio or watch Tea Party activities on TV I wonder if it matters whether their positions hold any historical truth.  Wasn’t the original Tea party about taxations without representation?  Don’t we have representation?   Is the “real issue” the fact that some people just don’t agree with the votes and the laws that follow.  While they like to call themselves “true patriots” some might just call them “sour losers!” 

The author of the article on “Contested Histories” concluded by quoting another historian, Milan Kundera, that: “The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone.  The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy and repaint it.”  I could not disagree more! I believe the old proverb: The past is history, the future a mystery, the present is a gift!

We need to face what is right in front of us at this moment!  We need to face forward into a future of possibilities.  If we focus entirely to the “baggage” which humanity continues to drag along, arguing over “contested histories” our future will slip by and we will likely repeat the same old mistakes. The future will hold only ugly surprises and sadness at missed opportunities!

Compromise is always possible!

As therapists we know of the importance of the past in understanding the forces that shaped us, we know the power of the past when a patient (or community) carries it into the present.  However, the challenge of changing to meet current and present demands must be faced in the “here-and-now.”  It must be faced not by people long dead and gone, who fought old wars, but from those of us who draw breaths and look for meaning in the present.  The challenge is to find common ground and move forward, not to rehash “conflicting histories,” not to find that which divides us but that which brings us together. 

I challenge believers of all faiths to look to your sacred scriptures not for words of division and self-righteousness, but for words of healing and compassion.  Focusing on the past (e.g., old wars, old battle flags, old slogans) is more a part of our problem than part of our solution.  I suggest that after you search your sacred scriptures you look into the faces of children whose skin is not the color of your own.  Look into the eyes of the elderly who do not speak your language.  Look to the sky, the earth, and the waters at the tortured landscapes we have created.  In each of these four places look for that which connects us to one another instead of that which divides us. 

Don’t close your fists tightly about your possessions, open your hands and share with others.  Don’t draw some barrier line around your “place,” invite others into your space to stand at your side.  As President Obama has shown us, do not be afraid to make eye contact, to extend a hand, and speak in whispers to friend and foe alike.  For only then will we take the risk and step up to move forward toward the possibilities of the future!

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page!

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  167                              Cumulative Days Blogging: 152

Today’s Mileage: 4                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 1120

Your choice!

As I ride the bike this evening I am appreciative of the supportive comments made by my fellow pilgrims concerning yesterday’s posting.  It is always nice to find out that you are not alone, especially when faced with the growing chorus of negative voices that surround us.  At times like these it is easy to feel a tinge of hopelessness at the magnitude of the task that we face, in somehow turning back these negative, divisive forces.

I believe it is possible to turn around our nation’s slow decline into hatred and uncivil society, but it is not going to be easy.  I believe that a desire to make this change is part of what has brought so many of us together networking to find “like minded” individuals, as I am fond of saying: Add enough small ripples together and you have a large wave, a wave for positive change!

Many people are familiar with the Humanistic Psychologist Abraham Maslow and his theory about the Hierarchy of Needs.  At the bottom of the pyramid are the deficiency needs: Physical Needs, Safety Needs, Belonging Needs, and Esteem Needs.  These needs are powerful and often demand our attention.  If they are not being filled we feel an emptiness/deficiency until they are met.  Appealing to these needs is often accomplished with emotional messages which may include: calls toward anger and resentment, threatening messages, heightening fears, announcements of scarcity, threats of banishment, questioning an individual’s values and motives, challenging their patriotism.  We have seen some sad examples of these needs playing out in people’s lives like the young Irish girl who was bullied and badgered to the point of committing suicide.  If you study the various signs and angry shouts of the Tea Party activist seen at televised rallies you see many blatant examples of these appeals.

At the top of Maslow’s hierarchy are the Being or Self-Actualized Needs.   These are a diverse set of needs that differ for each person.  They represent things like: Compassion, Beauty, Creativity, and Justice.  These needs have a very subtle voice and are only heard when one quiets the deficiency needs or looks past these lower level needs.  When someone asks: What would Jesus or Buddha do?  When you hear or read the thoughts of the Dali Lama, Gandhi or Mother Theresa you are hearing a call toward an all embracing love and compassion for all people, these are the voices of the Being Needs. 

I know I am not alone when I cringe at the loud emotional voices screaming at us from the papers, the radio, TV and internet.  They call others names (e.g., socialists, baby killers, liars, illegal aliens, Islamofacists, etc.) and are not talking about finding common ground or solving the problems that face us.  They present “Us versus Them” and/or “Win or Lose” scenarios that only divide peoples and communities, along racial, religious and economic lines.

I have included the Peanuts cartoon tonight because I think it points to a sad fact concerning these heightened emotional appeals.  Some, perhaps many, people in fact enjoy being mad and angry.  They do not wish to rise above their egotistical selfish needs.  They may like the sense of immediate energy and power that strong negative emotions infuse them with.  They may find meaning in the causes tied to these emotional statements (e.g., antiabortion, gun rights, anti-immigration).

A challenging Puzzle, but a solution is possible!

How do we turn this situation around?  I think we need to speak up with our opposing views and not let ourselves be shouted down.  We need to challenge our churches to stand up for the positive loving values espoused by all of the faiths (e.g., follow the Golden Rule or better still the Platinum Rule).  We need to engage independent/undecided citizen and educate them to our position.  We need to work at making our lives, our relationships and our social movements shining lights and beacons for the Being Needs!

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page!

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  166                              Cumulative Days Blogging: 151

Today’s Mileage: 4                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 1116

Struggling with Change?

As I ride the bike this evening I think back to a long lunch discussion I had with a friend earlier today.  I was trying to explain to her the nature of the “confused and unsettled state” I have struggled with for the last half dozen days.  As often happens in long discussions with this friend, statements elicit questions and answers are punctuated by requests for further clarification!  It is a process that some people might see as circular and a “waste of time,” however it helps me to refine my thinking on important topics. 

I would like to briefly share with you the primary issues I have been mulling over as I “went silent” for the better part of a week.  As we ride westward across northern Florida in the coming days, I will explore these issues in more detail and explain how they are related to my spirituality and connectedness. 

Agreement is not mandatory either!

Before I present the basic issues I would like to note that Psychologists have long recognized that the label “stressful” is not reserved for only negative events, but fit for any event that signifies/represents a change in one’s life!  While negative events (e.g., a death, job loss, divorce) can be devastating, positive events (e.g., graduation, marriage, a new job) are also disruptive to well established life patterns and routines.  My friend asked me if I was worried about “making it through” this period of stress? 

I answered with a resounding NO!  Research has shown that even winning the lottery can and is stressful (i.e., the demands  associated with managing large amounts of cash), however the factor that best predicts a person’s long term happiness with their “good fortunes”  is the degree of happiness the y experience before their winnings.  In other words… happiness before the disruption best predicts adjustment to the disruption!  Since I have been in a “joyful” mood for some time I have no doubt I will come through this stronger.

Here are the issues:

1)    I have experienced an acute awareness of the numerous issues fueling conflict within our communities, nation and world.  This awareness has been greatly heightened by the process of searching for blog topics and pilgrimage sites.  Not an unexpected occurrence, but the poignancy of this process has been surprising.

2)    I have experienced transitory feelings of helplessness and hopelessness associated with the above mentioned awareness.  I am an optimist; however the number and deep seated nature of the difficulties we face represent an extremely daunting task especially as it sometimes seems that our options grow more limited by the day!

3)    I am experiencing a desire for renewal and/or change with respect to my academic career.  I am celebrating my 25th anniversary as a University Professor!  I love teaching and interacting with the students, I don’t savor all of the superficial demands that go along with the job and the 2 ½ hour a day commute is grueling.  In addition, my creative endeavors and interests have always taken a back seat to my academic career (bringing home a pay check).  I feel that it may be time to give my creativity a chance to shine.  A spirit confined can at best only stretch its wings, it can’t soar!

4)    I am struggling with a sense of parental sadness as I try to let go of my dreams for my eldest son, while at the same time savoring the memories.  This is coupled with a sense of fear for the choices he has made: dropping out of school, joining the Army, and the fact that he will likely go to war as an explosive expert (e.g., his job will be the same as the character on “the Hurt Locker”).

5)    I look forward with deep joy to my upcoming marriage.  I have found someone who does not merely tolerate who I am (my liberal beliefs, my Eastern Spirituality, my creativity, my jokes) but celebrates my strengths as gifts and forgives my weaknesses!  Still, merging lives, schedules, and families involves an ongoing process of finding balance… a joyful, but still stressful task!

Well, that is it in a nut shell.  I left out any reference to my spiritual journey, however, all of these points are impacted by my search for and review of pilgrimage sites.  I will speak to this impact in future blog postings.  Have a wonderful day!

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page!

Celebrate Life out of Joy and Gratitude!

Greetings to all my family, students and friends.  Many of you have been asking “what happened to the stationarypilgrim?”  I did disappear from the blogosphere for several days but I am ready to return to our pilgrimage journey.  

I have a job/profession, as a Psychology professor, that involves a great deal of thinking, pondering and speaking.  I strive to “bring together” somewhat abstract ideas with everyday activities, observations and behaviors.  I am known as a “man of many word and stories” and a good teacher, at least that’s what the students say on their evals of me!  I am seldom without some topic to speak about, some insight to share, some observation to make!  However, there are times that I do fall silent! 

I have learned over the years as a teacher, therapist and spiritual seeker that there are times when one’s words and ideas stop flowing or become murky and chaotic.  This often signals the coming of a serious life choice and/or the arrival of a significant insight.  I have been experiencing one of these periods!  

I have also learned that the best thing for me to do is to not force the words, but to just quiet myself and listen!   I listen to the voice from within me, and those from outside (e.g., a sermon, a partner, friends and students, sacred scriptures, secular philosophy, world events) and of course all forms of the voice of nature.  

I am preparing right now to take a hike along a beautiful river on a sunny Spring day, then I will attend church and enjoy the sharing of fellowship before joining a long time friend for lunch and an always stimulating discussion.  Later this evening I will climb back on the bike and share with you more about this period of silence.  Again thank you to all my fellow pilgrims for your concern and  encouragement.  I will leave you with a poem/musing I wrote this morning as I read the paper and fed my caffeine habit at a local eatery! 

Listen: There is always something to hear!

One to Go 

  

Like a parade of classic cars 

they creep past 

wearing gray trim 

   – like me 

thin top covering 

   – like me 

they savor their coffee 

   – like me 

they ponder serious issues 

   – like me 

they seek Sunday morning wisdom 

   – like me 

they open their Bibles 

   the youngest among them 

      leads the prayer 

I close my paper 

   and my notes 

Called to worship 

    by the sun 

        the rushing river 

           the bird calls 

This classic prefers 

    a path less travelled 

        at a creeping pace 

Fifteen for coffee 

   one to go! 

**** 

A new day with promises, opportunities and joys!

Have a wonderful day… embrace, savor and share it with those you meet!

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  165                         Cumulative Days Blogging: 150

Today’s Mileage: 5                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1112

As I rode the bike this evening my thoughts drifted to yesterday’s visit to a Christian Easter Day service.  The service was joyful with the reading of scripture and singing, directed by my partner Susan.  The service brought back memories of my childhood and significant church holidays.  The one thing I missed was the sight of children running around the lawn collecting colored eggs!

While I enjoyed the service I also made it a point to take a walk around the church campus before and after the service.  It was a particularly beautiful day and as always nature bombarded me with distractions.  I have decided to share with my readers several poems and musings I wrote before and after the service.

Across the Street

Church lawn:

   Pristine green

   Parallel mower marks

   Edged pathway

   Leads to a

   Tall white building

   Stark wooden cross

   Bares white cloth drapery

   Easter Lilies

   In plastic pails

   Circle the base

       Signs of a Church’s belief in resurrection!

 Across the Street

 Empty house:

   Unkempt lawn

   Mats of dark green clover

   Points of purple and yellow

   Dandelions and wild violets

   Scattered about

   Flowering dogwood

   Twisted wooden fingers

   Bearing pink jewels

   Majestic white irises

   Circle the base

       Signs of Nature’s promise of renewal!

****

Tree Mysticism!

In the Shadow of Giants

 Ancient oaks

Tower overhead

Midriff bulge

Extends its base

Onto the sidewalk

Like a living

Volcanic flow

What was two

Had become one

An extra

Roll of bark

Marks their seam

They are not alone

A vine

With a girth

Similar to my own

Sends tentacles

Like heavily laden

Fire hoses skyward

Braiding with branches

And twin trunks

A small flowering dogwood

At their base

Cannot compete

For size and age

It counters

With its beauty

Living in the shadow of giants

 ****

Natures Gifts!

Holiday Treats

 Forty steps

Along the sidewalk

From the back

Of the church

Before the Easter  

Sunday service

I found green grass

Colorful blossom gifts

On the lawn

All that was missing

Was a basket

And a chocolate bunny

 ****

Gaia!

What was…

 My favorite part

Of the Easter

Church experience

Standing at the base

Of a majestic

Magnolia tree

In the sun

Surrounded by

Spring bird calls

I admired the

Tree’s shade and

Structure

It must have been

Wondrous being a child

Around these trees

They were designed

For climbing and

Hiding in the branches

 ****

Patterns, cycles, beauty!

I hope that you enjoyed my words and caught glimpses of the beauty I find in nature!  My experience yesterday reminded me of the fact that “one size does not fit all.”  While the church was filled with people finding meaning in their sacred scripture and the story of a risen savior, there are others, myself included, who find meaning and guidance in the “voices of nature.”  I do not believe that one path/approach has more “truth or validity” than the other, they represent preferences based on our experiences and history.

After a recent posting concerning the Catholic Church one reader made the comment: “Sorry to hear that you are a former Catholic. Only Catholics that don’t know their faith leave because if you truly knew the faith of your birth you would see that there is no other faith to move to. The Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus founded upon Peter and it has lasted the last 2,000 years. Come home!”

Nature Saints?

I respect this reader’s right to his opinion and recognize his exclusionary beliefs about the Catholic Church.  However, I have found my path and like many others “my home” is within the realm of nature, its symbolism, its cycles, and its beauty!

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page!

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  164                         Cumulative Days Blogging: 149

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1107

Happy Easter to everyone!  As I type this the afternoon temp has made it to 80 degrees!  I was afraid that we might go from Winter right into Summer, I hope my prediction does not prove to be true. 

I spent part of the morning in my first Methodist Easter service.  I joined Susan at the church where she serves as the choir director.  It was a beautiful service and gave me some ideas for a future blog topic on the importance of “transformation” as represented by the resurrection of Christ.  I will save that for sometime in the coming week.  In the mean time we have been lingering around Jacksonville Florida and there are two churches I want us to visit as pilgrimage sites.

An Historical Church!

I have labeled the first church a Historical Worship Site pilgrimage.  Its history highlights what some would call part of our dark past, a past that included institutionalized racism and segregation.  The church in question is the Bethel Baptist Institutional Church.  In 1838 the first Baptist church was established in Jacksonville.  There were six charter members, the pastor and his wife, the deacon and his wife and two slaves known as Bacchus and Peggy. The first racially mixed meetings were held in the Government Block House until a building could be constructed.  The Legislative Council of the territory of Florida incorporated the Bethel Church in 1841.  In 1861 the congregation moved into a new building, however a short time later the Union army captured Jacksonville and turned the church into a military hospital during the Civil War. The church was left in a “deplorable condition” when it was vacated by army troops at the end of the war.

With the end of the war an effort was made to separate the Colored and White members but an agreement could not be reached over possession of the property.  The two sides went to court and the decision was made in favor of the Colored members because they represented the majority of members.  However, a short time after the court decision the Colored members sold the property to their White brethren and purchased other property. 

We Cater to White Trade Only!

In 1868 they erected a one room wooden building where they worshiped for the next 27 years.  Their White brethren went on to establish the First Baptist Church I downtown Jacksonville.  In 1895, Bethel constructed the first Institutional Church building erected in the South by a Colored congregation out of red brick and Georgia marble. As the “Church History” section of their webpage notes: It was erected by Colored mechanics under the direction of Colored contractors.  The fruits of their efforts were short lived as the building burned in the devastating 1901 fire that destroyed much of the city.  In 1904 the current sanctuary was completed.  Since 1966 the church has experienced continued growth and has significantly expanded their physical presence in the city while retaining its historical main sanctuary building. Its webpage lists some 32 different ministries!

Church front!

The second church we are going to visit today represents what I call an Architectural Worship Site Pilgrimage.  It is the Riverside Baptist Church of Jacksonville.  In 1908 a tent meeting was held by the Home Mission of the Southern Baptist Convention with the goal of establishing a church.  In 1913 the growing church built a small wooden structure for services.  Like much of the Florida coast in the 1920s Jacksonville was experiencing a construction boom which fueled tremendous growth in the church.  At this time the decision was made to build a new and impressive church.  What happened next set the Riverside church apart from all other churches in the area.

Baptism of Christ!

World-famous American architect, Addison Mizner was busy building structures up and down the coast of Florida.  He had never designed a church building, but had made a promise to his mother before her death that he would design one in her honor.  He was offered the opportunity to design the new church with a “free license in designing the church.” He donated his effort in memory of his mother by refused any monetary compensation for his services.

The building he designed is a master piece incorporating three major design types: Romanesque, Byzantine and Spanish.  Many of the design ideas, building materials and furnishing were directly influenced by his tours of European castles and cathedrals.  The shape of the church is that of a Greek Cross, with a Spanish red tile roof and plaster work which was done in a way to give the impression of aged limestone blocks.

The Adoration of the Shepherds!

The church building has large cypress doors, three Romanesque windows and a large carved bas-relief of the baptism of Christ above the doors.  The interior is spacious with a Gothic style spacious ceiling.  Numerous paintings in the Fifteenth Century Italian Renaissance style adorn the ceiling and front of the balcony.  The caps of the various columns are made of cast stone to give them the appearance of being had carved.  Large rose stained glass windows illuminate the northern and southern transepts. Wrought iron grills, commonly used in Spanish churches, enclose the choir and bapistry. 

To add a local connection to the effort Mizner included a painting by the local artist Lee Adam who was a member of the church at the time of the commission.  This work entitled: Adoration of the Shepherds, used the artist’s wife as the model for the Virgin Mary. In 1973 the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation of the National Park Service listed Riverside Baptist Church on the National Register of Historical Places.

He has Risen!

I believe that both of these churches speak to a process of transformation.  In the first case we have a group of people over come prejudice and natural disasters to rise up and become a powerful presence in their community.  In the second case we have congregation who trusted in the creative process of a master architect, who transformed a small sliver of the New World into a sacred memorial to the artistic forces that shaped the European religious experience of their ancestors.

I hoped you enjoyed that visit to these two special sites and that everyone celebrating Easter had a wonderful and joyous holiday!

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page!