This past spring our parish staff read and studied a chapter from Tod Bolsinger’s book Canoeing the Mountains. In a nutshell, this book describes the early 19th century quest of Louis and Clark to navigate a water route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, a way that everyone just knew was there.
Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery set out in canoes to locate this water route that explorers had been seeking for about three hundred years. At least four different nations had been searching for this connected route.
The expedition departed Camp Dubois in Illinois and traveled through Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and the Dakotas, finally winding up at the headwaters of the Missouri River in Montana. The water ran out, the canoes were no longer useful, and Lewis and Clark had a decision to make.
Do we give up and turn around, or do we put down the canoes and try something different?
With their explorer spirit, they picked up their canoes and forged ahead, going up the mountains rather than staying in the valleys, where there were no rivers anyway.
Various Native American tribes and French-Canadian fur trappers assisted, accompanied, and advised. They crossed the Continental Divide at the Lemhi Pass in Montana, and for the first time white men set foot in Idaho. There they found the Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia rivers, which led them toward Oregon. The sighting of Mount Hood confirmed that they had almost reached the Pacific coast.
Many might view our present worship space in Cheney Parish Hall, where we are prepared to be until January 2020, and wonder what we are doing and how we will do it. We had to put down the pipe organ and have picked up a piano. At some point this fall, we will also pick up the portative organ and Kawai digital piano, which actually has a brilliant sampled harpsichord sound and small but mighty Bose speakers.
We have temporarily abandoned our gorgeous Georgian Colonial nave for stackable chairs in the parish hall. Indeed, the temporary chancel in the parish hall consists of liturgical furniture and appointments from the nave, the chapel, and a lovely new-to-us altar, a gift from St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church. All touching reminders of where we have been and where we are going.
And beginning on Rally Day (Aug. 11), we will again pick up more musical and liturgical equipment: the Parish Choir returns and the Choristers and St. Cecilia Choir will begin rehearsing again. Shortly thereafter, the Holy Communion Ringers will begin rehearsing. Our choir area behind the parish hall chancel will be full with singers and ringers and various keyboard instruments.
Doing a new thing with worship in the parish hall, we have made some discoveries: the cement floor is quite good for music and for congregational singing, the arrangement of chairs is inviting for Communion, and the sound system for the spoken word is pretty good as well.
While we are carrying our canoes in the parish hall, work proceeds in the nave, which will be completely refurbished and gorgeous by the time we return.
Staff, clergy, choirs all have had to think in new ways for these past few months, and now we can see the Lemhi Pass on the horizon.
When the water runs out, albeit temporarily, we have a choice, and I can confidently say that we have taken the high road at Church of the Holy Communion.
The feeling of worship in the parish hall is pretty great these days, and we are getting it all done. And God is being continually praised.
Keep coming to church and be a part of this grand expedition. And we will all reach the Pacific Ocean together.
Photo of the Lemhi Pass (2002), Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Dillon, Montana. Courtesy of the United States Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. Public Domain.