If you aren’t a member of one of Savannah’s many congregations, the churches tend to blend into a collective steeple. Their individual characters and binding mortar can be overlooked like heirloom seeds blown into a dark corner of the potting shed. For this reason I felt fortunate to be educated on the Telfair Museum’s striking neighbor, Trinity United Methodist Church. Pastor Enoch Hendry is the man to make you feel at home, and it is likely because he and his family find their home on the fourth floor of the educational building adjacent to the sanctuary. It’s an exciting time for the church which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, and the Savannah churches born of it are anxious to count themselves among those making a joyful noise.
Today’s tour was more subdued. One room contained a wealth of archives fresh from the Georgia Historical Society. Fragile volumes dating to the 1700s have names that are still found in the city today, and a casual flip by Pastor Hendry reveals the handwritten name of John Wesley’s mother Susanna Wesley. Such items must be cared for with precision, and the advice of experts will likely filter through Daniel Carey of the Historic Savannah Foundation, a recent joiner of the congregation.
During my visit I was offered a rare chance to see the attic which is accessible by a ladder that forces one to pray with new-found conviction.
When it came time for me to climb, I felt the hard soles of my beat-up flats from Target resting on the rungs. I prayed with every step that they’d turn into the feet of a sloth and wrap around the wood with determination. I asked God whether he really meant for me to die in the historic churches quiet stairwell. Once at the top of the ladder I looked at warm glow the tungsten bulbs offered. I took in the attic-quality that, aside from the access and size, was not unlike the attic in the 1960s ranch house where I grew up. It was an attic. I discovered that my faith was just thin enough to prevent me from leaving the security of the ladder. Would I have the courage to climb down on it if I stood up like the brave pastor? God wasn’t giving any confirmation on the subject, so I stayed put. On the climb down I watched my foot placement and asked Pastor Hendry whether he felt that praying was more effective when done in angst or with a calm heart. “You alright,” he asked. At first I thought he wasn’t talking to me, but nobody else was in the attic. “Yes,” I said, “It’s a serious question.” I felt learning the bulls-eye prayer technique while slowly making my way to the soft carpet was a timely pursuit. I made a note to look up a “centering prayer.”
Had I found the grounding words, I might have been able to enjoy another Mona Lisa on the tour, the cabinet leading to the workings of the newly restored pipe organ! As it stood, I was only able to look down and snap a shot.