The Narrow Gate

I have driven past the church hundreds of times.  Perched on top of a little open spot in the woods, it hardly merits a glance, unless of course you like to look at old wood-framed country churches.

I do.

Today is a Saturday, and I’m in no hurry to get back to a never-ending series of projects at the homestead.  The roof is leaking again.  A rotting facia board needs to be replaced.  Bare ground where holly and yaupon have been ripped out of the front flower bed, awaiting azaleas and camellias that haven’t even left the nursery.  Seems like a fine time to stop and give this church a more thoughtful consideration.

It is well-kept.  Not a blemish to be found.  Not even any peeling paint.  I have stopped to look at a lot of these old structures in my travels across Alabama, and this one may be the best-maintained I have ever seen.

A sign out front tells a story.  Back in 1905, a group of nine Presbyterian pilgrims left a brush arbor to build a sturdier place of worship and a cemetery on this site.

I have driven by here on Sunday before.  Nine members look about right.  Maybe three cars and a couple of old pickup trucks in the parking lot.  If Preacher Calvin was correct, it would seem the Good Lord hasn’t done a whole lot of “choosing” in this spot over the last 113 years or so.

I walk around back to the cemetery.  Like the building, it is neat as a pin.

I am captivated by the two columns at the entrance, which the sign indicates were added in 1930.  Tallapoosa field-stone, probably gathered from a congregant’s field not too far down the road.  Angels carved from Sylacauga marble, the quarry a day’s wagon trip if the mules had a pleasant disposition and momma didn’t dawdle among the sundries at the dry goods store.

I step for a closer examination.  I am transfixed.


The finger is pointed at me, left hand beckoning through the gate to the markers beyond.

“Come on in traveler.  There’s a quiet spot right over there.  Enter and join the community of the dead, those who lie in wait of ‘The Shout and the voice of the archangel.'”*

I consider the proposition for a moment, then I’m back in my truck, boot heavy on the accelerator.

All of a sudden those chores at the homestead aren’t looking too bad.


*From The Holy Bible, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

11 thoughts on “The Narrow Gate

  1. I was gonna write “I like this,” which I very much do, and then I see that Loulou has written “Love this.” This has left me on the pointy horns of a dilemma. No one wants to appear less appreciative. Let me think on it some more.

  2. This brings back a sweet memory shared with me years ago . One of the Bishop’s in our Diocese called me one afternoon as he had going to dedicated a cemetery for the Vietnamese but as entered the property for the event he noted a huge banner above the Entrance welcoming him there.
    After the event as he arrived at home he called to tell me that on the drive back he said -What a self reflection of reality.

  3. Thanks for sharing that story. I’m glad to have been able to bring back a sweet memory. Thanks for the read and the comment. I think you just made my day.

  4. I love old cemeteries. Some of the epitaphs are fun to read. My Dads says “He was a rare spirit, he made a difference.”

  5. I’m a cemetery walker. Headstones are like designer clothing to me. They make statements. Some loudly, some elegantly, some downright awful. I recently found a county cemetery not but 3/4 mile from my home. Clay Creek Cemetery holds less than 32 headstones that are visible on a small stubbly plot of county land on the edge of a corn field. 12 of those headstones are children dating back just before the turn of the century. There is little inscription on the soft and stained stone other then first names, ages and date of death. Perhaps an endemic that spread throughout the community? Indeed it’s a narrow gate we pass through.

    1. I like to walk them as well, Leisa. I’ve noticed the dates with the children too, and that is exactly what happened.

      I once ran across an old cemetery with about 50 graves that was located in the middle of a very large ownership of timberland. There were many children, within days or weeks of one another, all in the late 1800’s. The last names were familiar, because they are common to the little community I live in now. The two places are about 10 miles apart as the crow flies.

      I talked to a local and found that our community was founded by the survivors of “the fever.” They decided that their settlement was “cursed,” so they moved a little further west.

      There are stories everywhere, even among the headstones.

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