Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Church that it has become…

Early in my family history search I came across a gold mine for a family historian. I was visiting the Nine Mile Church for the first time to try to verify that the James Smith buried in the cemetery was our “James Smith”. I had knocked on the door of the parsonage in hopes of being able to talk to the Minister of the church. I wasn’t even sure that this house was the parsonage but it looked like it was. It was a nice brick home much like the homes that my Grandparents had lived in while Grandpa Everett was a minister. The brick looked like the same as the bricks the church had been built with.

Eventually a middle aged woman answered the door. She was dressed in a nice pair of dress slacks with a very pretty blouse. I sensed that she was on her way out of the door for a very important meeting. I explained who I was and what had brought me to Nine Mile Indiana. The reaction on her face was a bit of surprise followed by a large warm smile. She offered her hand to me in a warm welcome. We chatted about the church a bit but she did not know much about its history. At this point in my search I could not be certain if this was my family or not. I had hoped the find out that the church had lots of old records and they would be able to answer all my questions! For a Family historian this is the equivalent of hitting the lottery! No such luck for me this day!

She was a very nice lady and as it turned out she was the minister. It bought a smile to my face. Oh much had changed since the days that Grandpa Everett was a minister. In their day, Grandma Lillian would have been answering the door. She would have had a dress on with her apron wrapped around her waist careful to wipe her hands before opening the door and inviting you in. The parsonage door was always open to visitors.

My sense that she was on her way out the door turned out to be true; she was headed to the hospital to visit with a church member. She asked if I wanted to see the church. “I’ll unlock it for you and when I return in an hour or so I’ll close it up then.” I told her that would be wonderful. We walked across the street chatting about the church and the quaint cemetery which surrounds it. She unlocked the door and opened it for me. Inviting me in, she said “enjoy your visit and I hope you find what you are looking for.” “I’ll be back in an hour or so to lock up”, she said. I went into the church and she walked back to the parsonage getting in her car and driving away. I thought to myself that it is a shame that we must lock our church doors these days. In Grandpa’s day, the church was always open. You never knew when someone would need to have a few minutes with God.

The church looked very much like the churches of my childhood. In the vestibule there were stairs leading up to the sanctuary or down to what I imagines were Sunday school rooms and a nursery. As I walked into the sanctuary, my thoughts turn to Grandpa Everett, wondering if he had ever been here. Could this have been his church? As I sat in the back of the church in the pew, I took in the beauty of this sanctuary. It is arrange much like a Theater, the pews fanned out with the focal point being the alter. It was not large but very warm and inviting.

It felt good to sit here. It felt as if I belonged. The windows allowed the warm sun shine to bath the room in a rainbow of brilliant color. It is a beautiful room. As I sat there I couldn’t help but wonder if family members who I had not met had sat in these seats. I just knew this was a place that I was supposed to have found. So many baptisms, marriages and funerals were conducted here. Families have begun, flourished and been returned to their maker within the comfort of the walls of this sanctuary.

I sat there in the peace and stillness of this beautiful church, with God, Grandpa Everett and other family members who I had not met yet but was certain that I would meet them soon.

I was disappointed to find out that there were no Church records to speak of. “Oh we have a dusty old box in the corner of the Office downstairs which might have a few things in it” the minister had stated, “but probably nothing that will help you much.”

I decided that a trip to the wash room downstairs would be necessary before I got back in the car and headed to Chicago. The basement was dark. They had a nice fellowship hall, a kitchen, a nursery and restrooms. When I came out of the rest room, I was thinking about the church as I walked toward the stair way to leave. To the left of the stairway hanging on the wall, was a quilt. I was at first startled but soon intrigued by it. It has become the most exciting find for me in my family history search so far. It was my winning lottery ticket!

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