If you’re lucky, once in a while you will be going about your business when something truly special steps into your path and begs for attention.
That happened to me this weekend while visiting cemeteries with my parents in Morgan County, Ohio. My uncle is buried in a cemetery that sits just below a little white church on a hill. It has been abandoned for as long as anyone can remember. From the cemetery you can just catch a glimpse of the top of the church through overgrown brush and trees.
This place has long captivated my imagination. It was a mystery waiting to be solved. Sadly, it was long unattainable because I wasn’t crazy enough to brave the snakes and poison ivy just to climb the hill for a look.
This time was a completely different experience because someone had cut back the brush on the bank, creating a rough trail all the way to the front door. It was like they knew I was coming.
You can bet I abandoned my parents at the cemetery and scurried right up to the top for a look. The clearing was small, the stone porch steps have shifted but the inside was eerily intact. It looks like the congregation of Pleasant Hill Methodist Church just closed the door and walked away.
Everything is covered in a thick layer of dust and the piano is in rough shape. The floor seems sturdy and most of the glass windows are intact. The light in there was breathtaking that afternoon. I was in awe of how the light played on those dusty old wood pews.
Describing the physical experience of seeing the old pews in the light of a late May Sunday is the easy part of this story. What’s a little harder to describe is the most important part of the experience.
Most history buffs will understand when I say that some places feel special. They feel like important things have gone on inside. They feel like there’s a layer of time as thick as the dust on those pews that can only be felt rather than seen. They feel alive.
I had the strangest sensation that I was not alone in that 1889 era church. It was as though there was some unseen event taking place just beyond my line of sight. I could feel the energy of a congregation. That piano sat silent for me but still seemed full of energy.
In another time, someone pounded those keys to the tune of an old hymn like “Mansion Over The Hilltop” while an elderly preacher gripped his Bible and studied the faces of his congregation as they sang along.
I felt like an intruder and yet, didn’t feel unwelcome. I simply didn’t belong. It was an odd sensation. Unsettling but special. If I could just turn my head fast enough, I was convinced there was a church full of people just behind me.
This is why I adventure, friends. This sort of thing happens so rarely but the promise of the opportunity to experience a place so unusual is one of the things that keeps me looking.