People should look for the best in all things
September 16, 1999
YORK, Maine This is the story of the Beautiful Church and the Ugly Water Tower.
Situated in a peaceful meadow here in York, Maine, a stone’s throw from Maine’s rocky beaches, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church holds Sunday services from late June until Labor Day.
One summer, the good people of St. Peter’s returned to their vacation homes here to discover to their horror and dismay that during the winter, while they were not there, the town had erected an ugly orange water tower right behind their church.
Because many of those who attend St. Peter’s are people of money and position, they immediately pooled their influence to see to it that this desecration be dismantled. They went right to the top to the capital in Augusta.
It is good to report that they were successful. Before the following summer rolled around, the Ugly Water Tower had come down.
It is still down.
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In a day when America the once-beautiful is in danger of becoming completely black-topped for roads and parking lots, one can only applaud such dedicated efforts to preserve the loveliness of what remains of our vanishing countryside.
As an afterthought, however, one must add the hope that the people of St. Peter’s whose esthetic sensibilities were offended by the Ugly Water Tower for a few brief moments a week for a few brief weeks in the summer were just as ready to use their influence in life to help beautify the surroundings of those who must live amidst ugliness 24 hours a day, 52 weeks a year.
The Rev. Edward McNeill Poteat would have loved St. Peter’s in the meadow. A lover of beauty and a great preacher, he also composed beautiful music. But much of his pastorate was conducted in the central city in a rundown section of downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
He reflected on this once in a poem:
“I who love beauty in the open valleys,
Tintings of sunset and the swallow’s flight,
Must breathe the air of squalid city alleys,
Shut from the cool caresses of the night.”
So, you may ask, why did he do it? He gives a hint of that in the next verse:
“He too loved beauty, but a city drew Him,
Flowers he found in little children’s eyes,
Something of grace in lepers stumbling to Him,
Fragrance of spikenard spilled in sweet surprise.”
We must not lose sight of that kind of beauty, either.
R.J.B. of San Diego wrote and asked: “Billy Sunday used the phrase ‘hitting the sawdust trail’ in speaking of those who accepted Christ. What is the origin of that expression?”
Well, R.J.B., lumberjacks used to mark their way in the forest with a trail of sawdust to help them find their way home if they got lost. Revivalists in the lumber camps coined a religious metaphor out of the practice. They put sawdust on the floor of the revival tent and invited the “lost lumberjacks” to come forward and “find their way home to Christ.” (Copyright 1999 Newspaper Enterprise Assn.)