A Modern Nod to the Old World

26 October 2009

Kyle and I made the difficult, late-night drive home last night from faire, picked up the dogs from the kennel, and went quickly to bed. This day we knew would bring the type of stress and weariness that is never enjoyable. Today was Kyle’s Gramma Evelyn’s funeral.

We joined the immediate family at Uncle Mike’s house in Richardson for a tasty lunch prepared by their friends from the church. It was good to see faces we see too rarely. After eating and enjoying one another’s company, however sad the circumstances, we all headed to the church. A lovely church, too . . . in fact, I chose a photo I took there, as my photo of the day.

First United Methodist Church of Richardson, Texas. I don’t know what it was like before, but it seems to have undergone some major updating and remodelling in the year 2006, according to engraved monuments along the entry way. I have been in a lot of churches in my lifetime, from medieval period to modern, and I have developed an absolute love for church architecture. I love the old vaulted arches and exposed beams. I love the quaintness of country churches, too. What I really don’t like much, is the recent trend toward modern construction styles—churches that look more like recreation centers! Not my thing. I like steeples. I like stained glass windows. And, once inside, I like pews, not chairs. I like warm colours. And, oh, how I love a pipe organ.

Well, the First United Methodist Church in Richardson has all those things I love! The facility is just modern enough . . . and beautiful. The lobby, for lack of a better word, was furnished with comfortable living room furniture and the walls were lined with exquisite antiques. I didn’t have time to explore, but there were certainly hallways and stairways leading to classrooms and kitchens and the like. The family first gathered in a charming, although modern smaller chapel. (I say smaller because it was a fraction the size of the sanctuary, but itself would have seated at least 200.) Then, we were greeted and prayed with the officiating minister before being led into the sanctuary. The sanctuary itself, although obviously updated for the 21st century and complete with theatrical lighting and a good sound system, was a marvelous piece of throwback architecture. Built in cruciform style, although with a shortened nave, it was shaped more like a Jerusalem cross with all four “arms” being approximately the same length. So, the trancept then, was very wide, and in fact the seating within it was only slightly angled, rather than the older method of facing those pews in toward the nave. The chancel area, behind the communion rail, was raised by three or four steps, and there was a sizeable choir loft in the very back of it, with pews facing back toward the congregation. In the space between, a lecturn to the (stage) right, and a baptismal font to the left, with the Lord’s Table in the center. Both a piano and the console for the wonderful pipe organ occupied the upstage left corner of the choir loft. As marvelous as all that really was, it was the view over my head that really impressed me the most. In what appeared to be a modern building, above me was the most intricate array of arches in what I would have called a ribbed vaulted ceiling, except that the arches themselves were rather free-floating. A complicated, beautiful nod to the history of church architecture. I know very little of how this would be accomplished or if there is any structural importance to those angular arches, but I do know it is a beautiful thing. As my photo also shows, there were lovely stained glass windows regularly placed around the clerestory (clear-story)—the upper walls— which together with more modern skylights, let in a wonderful warm light, despite the gloomy, rainy day we were having.

The service for Gramma was lovely, the eulogy having been well-prepared by someone who obviously knew her, and took the time to learn much about her. There were hymns sung, and prayers said, and a very sweet soloist sang Mansion Over a Hilltop–an old gospel favourite and a direct request from Evelyn! After that was all done, it was time for the long drive from Richardson to Cleburne for the interment. Evelyn had lived in Cleburne for many years before moving to the retirement center nearer to one of her sons and his family. So, off we went in the rain, arriving in quite the windy downpour. The ceremony was brief and before too long, we hugged our goodbyes and headed toward home.

It should be said here, that between the time we left home this morning to head to Richardson, and the time we left the cemetary to return home, Kyle and his family had received news of three additional deaths of loved ones! By the time the last of those announcements came, there was so much more sadness amongst the group that the whole thing became quite surreal. Sad to bury your grandmother, yes, but to learn you’ve also lost an uncle, an aunt and a godfather on the same day—amazing and bizarre.

So, determined to add some sort of happy memory to the day, I suggested that we try to find someplace to eat dinner on the way home that would be new and adventurous for us. We like that, of course, and Kyle was not a hard sell, as we were both hungry. It wasn’t long, though, before we were both frustrated at the decided lack of food options in both Cleburne and Burleson. I was so sure there would be cute little mom & pop places to eat, and there weren’t! So, we got all the way back to Fort Worth, and wandered toward the Hulen area. We had just decided to settle on a little sports bar and grill when we found a sign that read “Brix Pizza and Wine Bar.”

This was a perfectly delightful find! Brix is a small, bistro-like boutique restaurant, with a beautiful bar and a great wine selection. And the menu consists mainly of various “gourmet” pizzas! We had a margherita pizza with prosciutto and spinach and a delicious caprese salad, and a fabulous bottle of a Valpolicello we’d never before had.
We sat, talked, ate and drank that bottle of wine, just relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. Our usual forays to No Frills don’t quite allow for the same quality of dining experience! 😉 It was just what we needed—the second lovely sanctuary in our day! Brix hasn’t seen the last of us.