Fox always triggers memory

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2011

Funny how something fleeting can trigger a memory. As I walked by and glanced at the television in my living room a few days ago, I saw a fox racing across a field. “Liberty Church,” I said to myself. Memories of a little country church flashed in my mind.

When my husband first entered the ministry, he served a charge with two churches. One sat in a large field out in a country community. Some said the then-dilapidated building was built in the 1800s. In the church yard, several gnarled oak trees in the full foliage of summertime rustled with a gentle wind, creating a pleasant breeze. Blackberry bushes scattered over the grounds annually produced healthy berries for man, beast and birds. Birds sporadically touched down on dead limbs in that peaceful atmosphere and made an awful clatter.

Only a few elderly members attended, but every Sunday morning they were able, they came to sit on the rough, hand-hewn pews to sing praises and worship God. Two large windows stood on either side of the pulpit, offering a panoramic view of the out of doors. Sunday morning after Sunday morning, the congregation saw the seasons change before their very eyes. We noticed as the gentle green of spring moved through summer, then change to the orange and yellows of fall to the harsh brownness of midwinter. In the meadow to the right, a pear tree blazed first with spring foliage and then burst into white billowy blooms. It dropped its burden of fruit in the weeks to come.

During the winter, one of the men came early to turn on the gas heaters. By the time my husband, daughter, and I arrived slightly earlier than the congregation, the heat had started rising to the ceiling. We grew accustomed to the bees that lived in the ceiling buzzing overhead, driven into the open by the heat. Their humming sometimes blended with our human voices as we sang the songs from the congregation’s favorite song book, the Cokesbury Hymnal. During spring and summer, an occasional wasp floated into the church, flitted around a bit, then landed in the cracks between the wide floor boards.

As if annoying insects weren’t distracting enough, one morning when my husband was well into his sermon, the rest of us saw a fox race across the field laid bare by the fall harvest. It wore a faded, bedraggled coat. We all gazed spellbound out those tall windows beside the pulpit, watching the woodland creature disappear into some bushes on the far side of the meadow.

After the service concluded, we speculated on the age of the creature. We wondered about its lair. Some thought it might live under the building. Everyone agreed that if not, it probably made its home in some of the bushes on or near the church grounds.

Every time I see a fox on television or a picture of one in a book, that church comes to mind.