We have yet to meet our first Santa Fe resident—shopkeeper, Uber or Lyft or bus driver, museum docent, restaurant server, grocery clerk, bus commuter, fellow walker I meet on my daily outing—who dislikes this town. Even stronger: who isn’t enthusiastic about this town. Our probing ploy sounds something like this: “We’re checking Santa Fe out as a possible landing site when our ontheloose days are over. What do you think?” It’s as if the local Chamber of Commerce has dispatched an army of unpaid boosters, all eager to insist they will never consider going back to wherever they came from. Even bona fide natives display an urgency—of course it’s a casual-seeming, laid-back kind of urgency—to explain why, though they might have tasted the temptations of another place or two when they were young and foolish—they’re now here for the duration. Theirs is a fever that’s easy to catch. Especially when winter begins its promising slide into spring.
When we arrived everything natural wore varying shades of brown—tan, ecru, beige, chocolate, Grey Poupon. Everything was asleep for the winter, dry, crinkly, as if in readiness to return to the dust from whence it came. But then, of a sudden as I made my way around the neighborhood on my daily constitutional, I began to spy sprigs of green and blossoms of bright yellow and “cherry pink and apple blossom.” (I just gave away my age, didn’t I? That’s a very old song.) Even the cacti are donning their waxen spring hats. Every day displays more color, not in the lush spreads you see in wetter climes but as stand-alone treats to be savored individually. Looking out at the still mostly brown terrain, Joy asked a driver, “Does it ever get green here?” Pause, as if never having considered the question before. Then, “No.” But it’s OK. We lived in Arizona for 28 years. You can adjust to the sun and subtle beauties of the high (or low!) desert. Adjust, you may, but you will never take for granted nature’s annual spring decorating job, either.
Two consecutive weekends, two very different experiences.
Last week we reported on our return to Central Christian Church in Mesa on Palm Sunday weekend. The joy of being once again with our Arizona people will live in our memories as long as we have memories. At our retirement party on my last Sunday as the pastor in 1999, it was pointed out that I had given “my most productive years” to the church. I remember thinking at the time, “You mean this is the best I can do?” It was a little disheartening to hear myself described–even if lovingly–as over the hill. Well, that was almost twenty years ago. The slide down the other side of the hill has been a long one. On these pages you’ve already met our Velcro son Brian. He’s the one who offered that probably obvious but certainly unnecessary appraisal. He was one of Central’s pastors then. He’s told many people that after the church got rid of that old minister the things really took off. And they did!
Now Central’s an even larger and in many ways more effective congregation today than the one we left in 1999. (By the way, I misreported the attendance. I said 9,600 worshiped there on Palm Sunday. The count was 10,300.)
Our church experience in Santa Fe on Easter could not have been more different, but it gave us another valuable memory. We haven’t settled in a Santa Fe church yet. Between our travels and Joy’s battle with that pesky vermin she picked up somewhere, we haven’t had the opportunity to plug in. Where to go for Easter? I called on Google for help, then chose The Church of the Holy Faith in city center. One of our travel goals has been to learn something of the culture in each of our briefly adopted hometowns. This church served that purpose, since its history goes back 150 years, well before New Mexico gained statehood in 1912. Can a church that old still be vibrant? We wondered.
The answer is yes. Holy Faith advertises itself as “an Episcopal Church of the Anglo-Catholic tradition,” which entails a sung liturgy and robed choir, similarly vested clergy and lay leaders, incense, and a printed order of worship to be followed to the letter. (These visitors lost our place from time to time.) The choir was excellent, many if not most of the singers associated with the Santa Fe Opera and Santa Fe Desert Chorale. Joy and I never tire of a well-played pipe organ, and this one was played well. Probably most of the parishioners were grateful for the sermon. It took less than ten minutes. A dangerous practice, if you ask me, one not to be imitated. What the service lacked in sermon it made up for by generous readings from the Bible.
And then there was the Eucharist, much appreciated by us Christian Church types. In our low-church tradition we refer to it as Communion or Lord’s Supper. We are not accustomed to going to the altar and receiving the bread and cup at the rail; in most of our more democratic Christian Churches we pass the trays of individual cups and matso-like bread to our pew neighbors. Still, though the form was not our form the meaning was the same: “This is my blood… this is my body… for you.” Wherever we’ve worshiped with Christians, we’ve heard these words and felt our oneness with others with whom we may not share skin color, nationality, language, or other incidentals that ordinarily separate us. In what matters, we are one. We were glad we went.
We won’t become high-church Anglicans. Still, The Church of the Holy Faith is a century-and-a-half old. It attracts and holds young people and children, not just us oldsters (who, it must be admitted, constituted the largest age group). Holy Faith will be here long after we’re gone, the members worshiping together and serving the poor and disadvantaged in their many service activities. It won’t boast of its many thousands in attendance, as Central Christian can, but like Central it lifts up Jesus and sends its people into the highways and byways to serve in His name.
Two weekends, two churches, one faith. Joy and I will continue to work and worship among “our kind,” but we’re glad to be in partnership with others wherever we go who love God and love people.
On Georgia O’Keefe’s coattails
A Lyft driver assured me this is true: America’s Number One art colony is New York City. Santa Fe is Number Two. I checked him out with Google, and didn’t get the same report. However, I did learn that Santa Fe has boasted a thriving artists’ community ever since Georgia O’Keefe made Abiquiu, New Mexico (about 50 miles NW of Santa Fe) her home following 1929. I also learned that our adopted town hosts 240 art galleries; it’s the third largest art market in the United States, “a veritable Mecca for enthusiasts and collectors of historic and contemporary art of New Mexico…”
We’re slated to be here for three months. We’re in our second one already. We’ll have to visit almost four a day with no time off for good behavior if we want to check out all of them. I suspect one of us would like that. I haven’t asked. What I can admit is that the few we have scoped out so far offer some first class art work. That’s only my expert opinion, you understand. Here you see one of Santa Fe’s most recent additions to the art community hard at work:
JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS
CRUISE DATES FOR 2019. Join us for one or all of them!
January 13-21. Celebration Cruise to Cuba and the Caribbean
See www.eo.travelwithus.com for details. In the Search window, type Celebration Cruise.
January 30-February 21. Holland America’s South America and Antarctica Cruise. See www.lawsonslooseinantarctica.com for details.
October 19-27 EO’s Blue Danube River Cruise – The Hat is the lecturer.
Web page for this cruise is not yet available. Coming soon. Watch this spot.