Before he died, every time we went up for a blessing from Archbishop Dmitiri, of blessed memory, he would ask us where we were from, and then tell us we need to start a Church in Weatherford, which is half an hour west of Fort Worth. Notice Archbishop Dmitri would re-ask the same question. He got a little forgetful in his later years, which unfortunately is when we met him. So you could chalk his directives up to not being at his top mental faculties. That is why I’m not going to go around saying, thus saith the Lord. I don’t have the best faculties either. But I can dream.
Friday George and I drove by two properties in Santo, Texas to imagine what they would be like as Orthodox Churches. Santo is half an hour further west, and is half an hour north of Stephenville, home of Tarleton State (agricultural) University, and half an hour south of Mineral Wells, which is big enough for a super Walmart.
This property catches my fancy the most: http://www.trulia.com/property/3154589743-12913-S-Highway-281-Santo-TX-76472 See link for pictures.
It’s strategically located on the busy hwy 281 which goes directly from Stephenville to Mineral Wells, and is only 1 mile north of very busy I-20. The property is 3.5 acres that encompass a very geologically interesting hill called Castle Rock that is characterized by huge dark brown sandstone boulders. There is a lot of traffic noise, but the rocks offer seclusion, and the view from the back over the Brazos River-carved hills is gorgeous. The property has a kept up house at the summit, which appears to have a nice big living room with a vaulted, maybe domed ceiling, that may be suitable for a Church to start with. The old store that fronts the hwy is in not as good shape. And then the several rock, monastic cell-type outbuildings go downhill from there.
What I envision is a healthy monastic, Brother Sun Sister Moon, Francis of Assisi-type monk to head up simple, creative repairs. Sort of like they did in Whales’ Caerphilly Castle with this wooden figure.
What this monk would also have to do is bond with the locals. West of Fort Worth is cowboy country, and the most popular thing to do right now is to go to a Cowboy Church. There is a pretty large one about a block away from Castle Rock. Here’s Wikipedia’s description:
“Cowboy churches are local Christian churches within the cowboy culture that are distinctively Western heritage in character. A typical cowboy church may meet in a rural setting in a barn, metal building, arena, sale barn, or old western building, have its own rodeo arena, and a country gospel band. Baptisms are generally done in a stock tank. The sermons are usually short and simple, in order to better to be understood by the parishioners. Some cowboy churches have covered arenas where rodeo events such as bull riding, team roping, ranch sorting, team penning and equestrian events are held on weeknights. Many cowboy churches have existed throughout the western states for the past forty or fifty years, however just in the past fifteen or so years has there been an explosion of growth within the “movement”. Prior to 1980 there were no less than 5 cowboy churches in Texas, now the number exceeds 200, and there are an estimated 750 nationwide. There has been no definitive group that established the movement; rather it seems to have had a spontaneous beginning in diverse areas of the country at nearly the same time. Some of these cowboy churches are an outgrowth of ministries to professional rodeo or team roping events, while the roots of many can be traced back to ministry events associated with ranch rodeos, ranch horse competitions, chuck wagon cooking competitions, cowboy poetry gatherings and other “cowboy culture” events.”
I hope none of them are offended by the short and simple sermon thing. But let me just say I love cowboy culture. There are worse things than being a quiet horse-person. I believe there is a uniquely spiritual relationship between a horse and gentle rider that quite captures my attention and may be worthy of contemplating at Church. I’ve written about the real horse whisperer, Buck Brennaman, before and want to see this documentary again. He doesn’t believe there is any such thing as a bad horse, but there are bad riders, and that’s what he tries to fix. That’s Orthodox.
A monk living among these outdoorsy people to me would need to adopt qualities similar to the Horse Whisperer. Keep your head low and unthreatening. Tune into them. Stay in sight. Sing softly. And give them a nice place to willingly come to.