A musician on his deathbed last fall shared one of the most convincing proofs of the existence of God that I have ever heard. His eyes lit up when he thought about downtown Memphis. He reflected on the unique culture, music, food, and vibe, how the city itself has a soul. He thought for a moment and said, ‘This could not have happened by accident. To put all this beauty together in one place, there has to be a God.’
Last Wednesday, we celebrated the Confession of Saint Peter, a major feast day in the life of the Church. It is the day we remember Peter’s response to Jesus, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answers, ‘And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church.’ (Matthew 16:16,18) In this brief encounter, we get a sense of the Church as the link between Spirit and material, between heaven and earth. Jesus calls Peter, the all too fallible human with whom we can all identify, the rock – the foundation of the Church. Jesus calling a living, breathing human being a rock invites us to imagine the possibility of the reverse – can an inanimate object have a soul?
Calvary experienced a tremendous loss last week with the death of Vincent Astor. Among many things, Vincent was a dedicated custodian of our history. He was the leader of our docents and his tours of Calvary were offered with brilliant insights about our architecture and our collective story, laced with Vincent’s unique flair as a master storyteller. Through these tours, he had a way of making our building come to life. He and the docents he trained have helped us breathe in the joys, the tears, and the prayers infused in our walls for nearly 200 years.
Vincent and many of you have guided us to see, hear, and feel the soul of our building. You have all taught us that the best way we can honor our stories filled with highwater moments and heartbreaks is by doing all we can to open our doors and hearts, bringing heaven to earth on our block and beyond. As we do so, we more and more embody the very soul of Calvary.