We are hunkered down in a very cold Cedar Key, which is giving me ample time to reflect upon Christmas while everyone else watches football.
And so we went back to St. Augustine, one of our family's special places, for Christmas Eve. We stayed in town, rather than out on the beach, but even there we were surrounded by the memories of twenty spring vacations as a family. We took a long walk through the Old City, had dinner at The Colombia Restaurant, and went to the late service at Memorial Presbyterian Church.
I was exhausted after two days of driving and most of the sermon went right by me, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about Christmases past. And I gave some thought to oil and railroad magnate Henry Flagler who built the church in memory of his daughter, who perished in childbirth. One website says that it's the only example of Venetian Renaissance architecture in the United States. It's beautiful (although not remotely Presbyterian in form or name in any traditional sense), and looks to be a wonderfully active congregation. Organ fans may listen here for a taste of the music:
(They're looking for an associate pastor, too ~ wish we were ready to move to St. Augustine permanently!)
We've worshiped there on occasional Palm Sundays and Easter Sundays in past years, but never before have I had cause to think about the heartbreak that led the man determined to blaze a railroad through the wilds of Florida to build such an incredible house of worship in his adopted community. It's odd, the ways in which we are all connected in this world, one way or another. My husband once worked for Standard Oil and I was an attorney for Chessie Railroads ~ and Henry Flagler's determination to open Florida to commerce and tourism probably accounts in no small way for my family's presence there through four generations.
And yet in the end, perhaps the deepest connections lie in lost children and the effort to respond with creativity and hope for others.