Sunday, March 4, 2012

Charleston: The Holy City

One of Charleston's many spires.

In my cab ride back to the airport, my cabby (and father of a friend living in Paris - small world!), who was not native commented when asked about Charleston, "What's not to like?"

Exactly.  Other than the city's dark past discussed in the last post, the city is entirely and thoroughly charming. From its unique cuisine (see shrimp and grits with crunchy pig ears at famous "The Husk" restaurant pictured below) to the architecture, Library Society (possibly my favorite library ever, including Oxford libraries), shops, harbor, history, and many, many steeples, the city is equally beautiful and interesting.

It is nicknamed the "Holy City," (no disrespect to Jerusalem, ma'am) because of those steeples.  But I found the city religious for another reason--it's people.

I spent a bit of time at the special collections for the College of Charleston, and found an ex-Olympic team snow skier manning the front desk.  As she intelligently and cheerfully searched for relevant documents and books related to my search topic, she told me how she was familiar with Utah through skiing with the team.  I asked her if she had participated in an Olympics.  She said no, she was discharged from the team prior to qualifying for personal reasons--her parents had gotten a divorce.  "My God is a good God," she said, "sometimes He takes, and sometimes he gives. That time, He took, but He's still good."

I could tell from this impromptu, abbreviated sermon that the young woman had suffered much as a result of her parent's divorce, and yet was still very content with her life.  She hoped to rejoin the team someday and qualify for the Olympics, but, for now, was happy to help me search for 18th century documents.

Amazing, I thought.  What strong faith to be able to have known real suffering and loss yet recognize the Lord's hand in your life.

The next day, my last in Charleston, I finally visited St. Phillip's chapel (previously St. Michael's - see the Tiffany's stained glass window depicting Michael casting out the dragon from Revelation in the background).  As I read my scriptures and wrote a bit in one of the quiet pews, a black gentleman came up and asked me how he could serve me.  He was the caretaker of the building, and he wanted to take care of me and allow me to worship a bit better.  He offered to allow me to kneel at the altar so I could pray (as I was reading and pondering rather than praying, I politely asked if I could instead stay in a pew and read their bible).  He, too, seemed energized and enlivened by his faith as he went about cleaning the structure who had seen so many parishioners over the years.

Although these faithful folk might not feel similarly, I recognized their devotion, at least its intensity, as one I shared.  I hope to visit this holy city again in due course and get to know more of these faithful Charlestonians.

p.s. to see more of the research performed on my trip to Charleston, see this post on my professional blog...

Can you see the pig ears?  And the bread went with delicious honey butter.

Tiffany's window is behind the pulpit.

Charleston Library Society main hall

The director of the Library has done all she can--and succeeded--in making
the Library a comfortable place to read and research.  The stacks are open, unique for this kind
of Library, circa 1740s. 

Second floor of the Old Exchange, the site of the Provincial Congress (and authorship of South
Carolina's first two constitutions and ratification of the Federal). 

1 comment:

  1. In the picture of the spires I peeped something that has always fascinated me, old gravestones. I enjoy reading the epithets on Civil War tombstones. Doing so (I wouldn't say I was a Civil War buff) makes the war more real to me. I have occasioned to see several graveyards from that era.

    Charleston is definitely awesome, albeit many go to S.C. merely for the beaches. You certainly have some great images of the city.