Larison”s Corner Presbyterian Church dates back to 1749, with the present structure dating back to 1817. From its founding, its colonial architecture, solid wood round columns and evidence of upper balconies—where slaves once sat– reminded me of my college chapel at Hamilton. As a boy on the way to our farm in Pennsylvania, I’ll bet I had been driven by my dad or driven myself by the church at least 500 times without ever having actually seen it. Until recently, it was shrouded in rather ancient Colorado blue spruce trees, a quiet little treasure with many stories to tell.
When I first walked through the doors seven years ago, I was searching for a local Presbyterian church in which to prepare myself spiritually, just in case I didn’t survive upcoming back surgery. There comes a time in one’s life when one confronts the possibility that one might not survive whatever medical procedure the surgeon has contemplated. As I told myself, “I must be physically ready, emotionally ready and spiritually ready for surgery.” “Live as one who is prepared to die.” to quote George Washington. I knew the spiritual piece needed work, not just work, but thorough rebuilding.
On that particular first Sunday, I entered and did not see many congregants. Quietly, I was astonished, suddenly confronting evidence that what the media writes about church attendance was, in fact, unfortunately true. I think I counted 12 hearty souls, including the pastor and the organist. Reverend Mark, as I later called him, possessed a deep, booming voice, and his sermon easily filled the sanctuary without a microphone and resonating sound system. I am almost certain he read the Ten Commandments, as he always did, an element of the presentation I rather liked. (Remind me, I need it.) I cannot remember that first sermon, but I have heard enough of his, so suffice it to say that it had to be direct and poignant. Reverend Mark could be engaging, but he was always direct and poignant. Reverend Mark has since retired, and we are in the final stages of finding a new pastor. I do not want to give anything away until the announcement, but I think the Lord has found just the right one.
After the service, people ventured over to inquire who I was. I remember everyone was so warm and friendly; each person seemed curious and genuinely excited that I had walked into the sanctuary on that gray, cloudy Sunday. Over the course of the coming weeks–something like four–I thought about looking for another church with a more robust congregation, but I always had the desire to return to this church and to these fine people. They loved their church. The Lord’s hand must have been on me. They, in my estimation, had and have tremendous spirit, the spirit of the Lord, so faithfully do those 12 attend.
To raise money to supplement the collection plate, they ran soup sales, hoagie sales and cookie sales, some of which I participated in whenever I could. Like the clothing and bake sales at Buckingham Friends in 7th and 8th grade, every event was “can do.” Roll up your sleeves there’s work to be done. From the first, their robust enthusiasm infected me, and I resolved to help them with whatever resources I could muster: time, talent, money; it didn’t matter. Here, I thought, were friends, so missing in the rest of my life, a church that needed everything–internet, a new computer, a website, new windows, new siding, a new organ, a new steeple, a new heating system, ultimately a new pastor, but most of all, it needed more people, not to add to the Lord’s spirit, which was already so abundantly present, but to keep it going, to help it grow, to restore the physical plant. Larison’s had stood for almost 200 years. I wasn’t going to let it go. Not on my watch!
In my early association with Larison’s, I used to sit there and think, “if I had $1 million, I would….” Well, the Lord didn’t give me $1 million, but he did give me the tools to renovate Larison’s Corner, and so I have set to work. The incredible part of my story is that He keeps hatching new ideas in my tired old brain, and He brings old friends with tremendous architectural and construction expertise to assist me. Without exception, the architect, the contractor and all the workers on the site work with a joy that could only emanate from the Lord.
Curiously, I always wanted to be a builder, a contractor. Thanks to a back injury on a construction site in Alaska at age 16, I never had the chance. A few years ago in my Church here in North Carolina, I attended a Bible study of the book of Nehemiah. As I look back upon my early desires and reflect upon what I learned in Bible study, renovating Larison’s Corner must have been the Lord’s plan. Drive by the church and you can see the Lord’s hands in action through not just mine, but everyone’s: Renovations. I never fail to remember that every bake sale and every hoagie sale run by the industrious ladies of the Corner Club has kept the doors of the church open long before the Lord provided the funds and the talent for us to undertake some much needed repairs and refurbishment of the church. Everyone here has done and does his or her part. It is a joyous way of life.
The same faithful souls there on my first day are still present, minus a few who have passed into the Lord’s arms. I love each and everyone of them; they are family to me. Although I live in another state over seven hundred miles away, and I cannot attend every Sunday, whenever I drop in, I am warmed by hearty hugs and handshakes all around.–even a few kisses on the cheek.
Over the course of my life–perhaps like you– my church attendance has been sporadic, I remain forever a casualty of the permissive 1960s and loving, but divorced parents. Often, I would see people going to church on special occasions like Easter and feel a bit of envy–that I was missing something, something I could not quite identify. Looking back, I understand now I longed to be part of a congregation, of a group of people who praise the Lord and eagerly work to better their community and the world around them on behalf of Him. Larison’s Corner is one such place, my place.
I shall forever remain grateful the Lord turned my head one day as I drove by in my white Jeep Grand Cherokee. My name is Sandy Bristol, and I love my church–Larison’s Corner….
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