January 11, 2015
Every so often, I like to take my camera and go out in search of photographs that I can make. Last year, 2014, was a particularly good year for doing that, for me.
On January 2nd, Candy and I flew into Boston, arriving just an hour or so before a dramatic blizzard closed Logan Airport. We spent a couple of days mostly indoors, including one sunny morning when I was able to take a few good pictures at the Museum of Fine Arts.
In late July, we were in Manhattan, where I did a couple of days of street photography, and then attended a day-long intensive workshop with an excellent photography teacher.
Then, in the second week of December, I was out in the evenings making photographs of the Christmas lumieres on the Champs Elysee.
I between, I drove over to Raleigh six or seven times to photograph many of the people of the Advocate marching on Jones Street and Fayetteville Street for the Moral Monday protests. And I drove up to southern Person County to photograph Jonathan and Megan planting flowers and, later in the year, raising the walls of their new home with a little help from their friends.
But of all of the hundreds of photographs that I took last year, the one that means the most to me was taken right here. A lot of you are in this photograph, taken at the Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 19th.
The photograph makes me think of the being on the first three-person vestry eleven years ago, and how we were renting space where very few people could find us, first at the Chapel Hill Kehillah and later at Unity Center for Peace. And how, in the second year of this church, in 2004, we were already longing for a place where we could set our own schedule, have our own liturgical space.
It made me think of all of the people, some of them experts in fund-raising or non-profit finance, who gave the vicar and me perfectly logical and reasonable explanations of why we could not afford to buy the land, why we would certainly not be able to raise enough money to build a chapel, why what we were trying to do was too risky, too unattainable, and was happening too soon.
But what I see in the photograph are six or seven dozen people of the Advocate who gave generously of their time, their money, and their energy and wisdom, and who somehow made this improbable adventure, this goat rodeo, come together.
I also see the people who are not in the photograph, were not here that night, going all the way back to George and Mary Esser. Including Beth Lassiter and Mark McGraw, who along with Brian Dangler, Barbara Rowan, and Emily Cameron, managed to get this building from Germanton to this site. And then worked tirelessly to get it put back together and upgraded to meet building codes.
Of course, I also see our tenacious and utterly determined vicar, Lisa Fischbeck, who never doubted that we would do this, and was always finding some small step, every day, to bring it all closer to reality.
I can also see and recall the time, last January, February, and March, when we were completely stalled on this project, when the last couple of work crews were never, ever, going to show up and finish the plumbing and the wiring, when the inspector for the town of Chapel Hill was never going to give us a certificate of occupancy, when we were so close, but we were watching weeks go by and getting no closer at all. So that is when I see David Buchanan and Pete Barber, who worked magic and small miracles, cussed out and cajoled, and somehow got us a temporary certificate of occupancy on the late afternoon of Maundy Thursday, just two days before this picture was taken.
Now I want to tell you just one thing about photography. This is from my own personal and private edition of the Apostle’s Creed, a section that I added and which I recite from time to time, although never before in church. Here it is:
The Fundamental Truth about Photography, the most important thing to know, is that photography is NOT about the camera. Photography is about learning to see. Yes, you have to have a camera, but only in same way that an artist has a brush or a writer has a keyboard. It is only a tool, a means to an end. In truth, it is all about learning to see.
And I will tell you the best thing about having been on the Vestry of the Church of the Advocate for the past four years. The best thing has been what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, what I’ve learned. I know first hand that this church is led by its vicar and its vestry, but it is defined by dozens and dozens of amazing people, you the people of the Advocate. doing kind and generous things for each other, and doing brave and visionary things out in our world.
The Fundamental Truth about this community of faith, this Church of the Advocate, is that our life together is NOT about the chapel. It is about learning to listen and to hear each other, about looking and being able to see each other, and about being Christ’s gospel going out into the world. Having a place in which, and from which, to do that is important, but it is just a tool, a means to an end. We are here, and we will grow here. But now we are in our place, and so now we are free to dream new dreams, and see new visions. Let us begin. Amen.