Sam Burnham, Curator
The images of the burning Cathedral Notre Dame captivated the attention of the world. The building itself is such a work of art that losing it was unthinkable.
But it is even bigger than that.
The faith itself is built into the structure. The Rose Window spells out the catechism, carvings tell the story of the Apostles, the Saints, the heroes of the faith. And as the dust settled and the smoke cleared the first photo showed the radiance of a gold cross reflecting light in darkness. At the foot of that cross, overlooking the rubble is the statue of Mary supporting the broken body of her son in her lap as her outstretched arms compel us to disregard the chaos and focus on the silent potential before her.
That potential, as the faithful know well, is the hope of resurrection, of redemption, As the death of Christ triggered fear, chaos, darkness, even a collapse of the world His followers knew. For when the week was new, and the Lord reclaimed His body and walked out of His tomb, the Light shone in the darkness and the darkness could not abide. What was broken was not only whole, but was now the way to heal the broken. A movement that had been thrown into chaos turned back the tide and turned the world upside down.
This is a message that put Notre Dame at the heart of Paris, at the heart of France itself. It is such a symbol of faith, art, architecture, history, and culture that it’s more than the Zero Milestone of the French people. It has become an irreplaceable icon of Western Civilization. It unifies more segments of a life into one symbol than even the Eiffel Tower.
It stands at the center of Western Culture the way churches stand at the center of communities throughout the West. It’s a place of assembly, of education, of art, of music, of faith. It is there for weddings that make new families, baptisms that celebrate new lives, the Eucharist that signifies faith, and funerals that mark our passing while pointing us toward resurrection.
In this capacity the church could help solve issues of poverty, homelessness, education, healthcare, cultural decay, and civic engagement, just has it has for over 1000 years. I mentioned in an earlier post that a church could house solar cells to produce community power. It can serve as an assembly hall. It can serve as a polling precinct. A church can be an irreplaceable hub of a community. And while we see that on a large scale with Notre Dame, we need to resurrect small churches to serve in the mission of restoration of small towns. They are vital to the restoration of spiritual, social, and civic life in these towns.
So as the grand cathedral will rise from the ashes, so must a thousand small churches in a thousand small towns rise again, or perhaps even rise for the first time, to take up the cross of Christ The work of ministry within the community can combine with many other pieces to help us reach the goal.
To bring these churches back we must do what the stature of Mary at Notre Dame compels is to: tune out the chaos, don’t be overwhelmed by the destruction, focus on Christ and the grace for the task. Then we trust in the Resurrection which makes all others possible.
Happy Easter from everyone at ABG.
Sam Burnham, Curator
My interest in pro golf is typically limited to April. When the golf world focuses on the best course in the world, I focus with them. Full disclosure: I’m partial to Bubba Watson and fellow Gamecock Danny Willett and I’ve never been a huge fan of Tiger Woods.
On Sunday, however, as the last grouping pushed into the later tee boxes, it sort of hit me what was happening. It was a minor epiphany and I had a moment when I connected with him. I understood.
Several years ago we saw his life, his entire world, collapse all around him in a very public manner. Without reciting all of his transgressions, he lost his marriage, his home, his career, his health, everything. The rumors weren’t much worse than what we heard on the news. He had several instances when his “comeback” was heralded but one thing or another always intervened and nothing happened.
But what we saw Sunday in Augusta was akin to the Tiger of old. But there was something different. He’s older, perhaps wiser. He’s not the bright eyed kid who wowed the world 22 years ago on that same course. That kid is now balding and has several back surgeries behind him. He’s got kids of his own - kids old enough to remember the fall but not the previous ride to the top. They deserved to see their dad triumph.
When they got to Amen Corner I was counting the strokes. The announcers were recalling that his history is one of having a lead and keeping it. There were certainly those who suspected he’d pull his back or double bogey his way through a bunker but that wasn’t what his face was reading. He was patient. He was calm. He was calculated. I haven’t heard him say it but I think he knew at that point that he was going to win.
That's the factor that has been missing in the other comebacks. We haven’t seen that intellectual and psychological edge he brings to the course. We haven’t seen that all-business determination that has had him described as cold, perhaps inhumane. We saw it today.
That was the moment I became a Tiger fan, at least for today. I wasn’t cheering for an aging golf legend, I was cheering for a middle-aged man who has apparently gotten his mind and his life back. How could I not cheer for that?
After today, I don’t even care if he wins another Masters or even another tournament. If he has won in that perilous competition with himself, then he’s already won the big one. And if he can win that one, we all can.
Sam Burnham, Curator
One of my dreams that help drive ABG is reviving struggling or abandoned small rural towns. Reversing the many pressures that have pushed people to larger cities can be reversed. But there are things that must happen to make this a reality.
I recently had a conversation that has me even more hopeful that a farm town renaissance can become reality. Michelle Moore is the CEO of Groundswell, a 501c3 non-profit organization that actively supports community solar, a revolutionary way to provide locally-sourced electricity to neighborhoods and even small towns. We just had the first of what I hope will be many conversations on helping small towns become energy independent.
In the community solar concept, an electrical co-op installs solar panels either on the rooftop of a community building or on the ground in an open area in the community. So the roof of a school, church, hospital, fire station, or community center becomes a small power plant. The solar panels work in conjunction with energy storage units (big batteries) that provide power during times the sun isn’t shining and recharge when it is.
This set up means the co op buys less power from large and distant generating plants. That creates several benefits.
- The co-op, and therefore the residents and businesses have reduced electricity costs.
- Storage units can be placed near essential services like hospitals, public safety facilities, etc. During widespread outages from tornadoes, hurricanes, or snowstorms, these locations have immediate access to power. With a local power source, there is less infrastructure to get back online to restore power to the community. The lights come back on quicker.
- In Georgia the potential for solar power is substantial. We have a lot of sun and utilization of that energy source cuts out transportation costs and potential delays or disruptions. Spikes in the price of coal, oil, or natural gas don’t matter nearly as much.
- Clean energy cuts pollution and makes the community cleaner and healthier.
All of these advantages can be used to draw businesses and residents. As Georgia electrical co-ops have been recently authorized to offer broadband internet service, energy and connectivity mean people can live in South Georgia and telecommute for work - a big city income with a small town life.
That's just scratching the surface. It’s just an introduction. Sometimes saving something old and traditional requires harnessing something new and revolutionary. The rural renaissance will require us to employ cutting edge methods and technology to provide and old fashioned way of life. To go back we have to go forward.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire