In the fall of 1995, I inherited the old Berry farm from my Uncle Lawrence. His mother, Grandma Berry, always said that she was going to leave the farm to me, so I could take care of it.
There is an old family cemetery on the property, and soon I organized its re-dedication as an Orthodox one, “Holy Resurrection Cemetery.” Around a half dozen of my clergy friends from around the country came to participate in this momentous occasion. The weekend’s festivities included an outdoor Divine Liturgy to be served the following morning, but it started to rain, so we had to make other arrangements. After searching for a suitable place, we realized that the only available space was the hayloft in Richard and Sheri White’s barn in a nearby town. We decorated it with icons and lampadas, and placed some folding analogions. The smell of incense filled the air. It reminded us of the manger in which Our Lord was born. When the weekend was over, we departed in peace and returned to our homes.
Later that week, I was picking up my 9 year old son, Elijah and his friend Brian from school, and we passed by a magnificent structure, St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church. We’d already passed our little storefront church, which was in a somewhat depressed part of the neighborhood. Elijah said, “that’s our church!” in a most innocent and proud way. As we made our way through the streets, I could hear the boys talking in the back seat. Brian belittled our church and compared it to the splendor of his church, St. Margaret’s. It took every ounce of effort for me not to help my son to defend his church. Then, to my surprise, Elijah said, “I have attended Liturgy in a barn, and it was every bit as lovely and holy as St. Margaret’s!” Brian replied, “Oh, I see!” and that was the end of the conversation. I was so proud to witness that which was hidden from men was revealed to babes.
Around the same time, my wife was working as a secretary in a large, historic Presbyterian church, in St. Louis’s Central West End. The sanctuary was beautiful, replete with Tiffany stained glass and an enormous organ. One day she took our 6-year-old daughter, Dorothy, to work with her, and they toured the building. In the sanctuary, Dorothy asked her how many people went to that church, perhaps thinking of our little storefront. My wife replied, “several hundred, I guess.” Dorothy looked around and said with confidence, “Well, if you include all the people in the icons, we have at least that many!” So great a cloud of witnesses she recognized!
Thus, we are reminded that God is everywhere present and fills all things. Sometimes we forget that in the most meager of circumstances, God is with us. “God is with us, understand all ye people, and submit yourselves, for God is with us.” (from Great Compline)