Monday, April 25, 2016


Agreeable responses to sermons have a salutary effect on those who preach, and Sunday I received perhaps one of the best responses to any sermon I’ve delivered since I began preaching seventeen or more years ago. I’ve mentioned Peanuts and his gang in previous sermons, but yesterday when I brought up Snoopy as an example of what Robert Short calls “the little Christ,” the small crowd in the chapel at St. Mary’s Convent, Sewanee, TN, became instantly alert. I apologized for seeming irreverent but went on to explain that, according to Short, Snoopy may be lazy, sarcastic, a coward, and quite weary of being a dog, but he also possesses love, loyalty, watchfulness, and courage. Furthermore, Short advises that before we can become a good Christian who loves well, we have to take on the dog’s lowliness of complete obedience and humility at the feet of the master and in service to others. When I said that Hegel, the German philosopher, recognized the dog as the most religious of all creatures who loves with complete dependence, the congregation seemed to be on the edge of applause. It was a memorable moment, and Penny, the Convent dog, who was curled under Sister Madeleine Mary’s feet, awoke from her usual nap in the sanctuary during church service and looked around for recognition.

I received a similar response when I went down to Grace Fellowship Church on Garner Road to deliver the same sermon. The response both gladdened and saddened me because I love dogs but cannot withstand too much exposure to them as I’m allergic to animal dander. Of course, Sophie, the Convent cat, isn’t as polite as Penny and insists on following me around, hiding under the table when I share breakfast with the Sisters in the refectory. Yesterday I was informed that the Sisters were up late vacuuming the chair on the altar where I sit before delivering a sermon because perverse Sophie had been lining it with animal dander all week in preparation for my arrival.

Sunday afternoon, we went down to the valley in Cowan, TN, to view an exhibit of the work of Carolyn Tocco who is one of the members of Grace Fellowship. Although Carolyn owns several dogs, I didn’t find any renderings of them; however, one wall of the Artisan Depot in Cowan featured a beautiful display of her oils that depicted wildlife and nature. Carolyn works in a studio of her home at Winterberry in the woods near Sewanee that we had visited last fall before we left Sewanee. We had come away from the visit with two small depictions of bugs and berries now hanging on the walls of the cottage here on The Mountain, and yesterday I added a painting of butterfly weed to our Tocco collection. I also left the Artisan Depot with two ceramic tea bag holders by Gretchen McCance who has a kiln at her home in Tim’s Ford, TN and another in Blue Ridge, Georgia.

The Artisan Depot just moved into a new facility on the main thoroughfare of Cowan and is a part of the Franklin County Arts Guild, which features fine art and crafts from Franklin County and surrounding areas. The Arts Guild is an organization of local artists and friends who promote the visual and performing arts for all ages in Franklin County. It also provides a scholarship for a promising high school senior who plans to study art or education at the university level, and an annual Sweet Tooth Theater, which is a musical act accompanied by coffee and dessert. The Artisan Depot is one of those galleries found in small communities throughout the Appalachians that promote venues for artists to sell their work.

It was a Sunday filled with “glad surprises,” as Thomas a Kempis says, made more pleasant by a Mexican dinner at the Fiesta in Cowan where the walls are decorated with another visual experience —the work of Sewanee artist, Edward Carlos.
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