“We’re going to see McCrae”
“We’ve been talking with McCrae”
“Are you meeting with McCrae?”
These are just a few of the ways the people of the Stone Church refer to me. There’s more than one of my kin in their midst. We’re a pretty simply bunch. Usually four legs and a flat top. Not too complicated, but when you gather around what you call a table, it is amazing how quickly that space becomes sacred.
Whether they’re eating, sharing the Bread or Baptising, we’ve had a role in the Stone Church’s over 165 years of history. There are no tables, however, quite like me. As the masons raised and levelled the walls of the church, McCrae himself selected the trees that would form and shape me. He had me planed and oiled to be the table at which those who would be leaders in their midst would gather. Over the years, each of those leaders has etched their initials into me: sort of like a living memory and reminder of those who have made decisions, sometimes ones that were difficult and filled with tension, as how best to nurture the community, care for the grounds, including the deer, gardens, and they even had to make decisions once about the ants!
The only changes I’ve seen has been re-oiling and, as the Stone Church people began to connect with the middle walkers, I was reshaped. They shared some of the history of the first people and how the Stone Church arrivers had been unable to connect well with one another for a long time. The middle walkers talked used the image of the circle as a way to begin to understand how they were all connected. This learning, though difficult, led the leaders at the time to change me from a rectangle into a circle: symbolic, but also a step to live into the healing of the peoples that the middle walkers encouraged.
There has been laughter, certainly, when they have sat with me. There have also been tears, in grief and loss, as is clear by the stones that surround the church. And – yes – there has been disagreement, anger and conflict. These tensions have, more than once, unsettled the community. But something often happens in these times, when the leaders sit around my now curved oaken planks.
One of the traditions the leaders have used, especially when difficult choices have arisen, is to use silence. This means no technology or phones, mics or projectors: nothing to distract from the decisions before them. Once all have had a chance, whether in whisper or raised voices, to share their experience and thoughts, silence is called for. In this place of speaking differently, often hands trace the initials of those who line my oiled wood: reverently, as they commune, wisdom often dawns.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t always consensus that arises, but there is often a sense of clarity. Most times, what is best for the community is embraced, even if someone still thinks it’s not the right way. When the disagreement remains unresolved, they sit a little longer with me. By then, voices have quietened enough that new things are heard, even in the presence of tension. I call that the creative time … the unexpected time when new possibilities emerge … and tomorrow will be no different. There’re new decisions and – admittedly – some will be a challenge to discern. I will sit here in my still place, holding them of each in the circle, as they continue to listen for what is best for the community, even if it means letting go, sometimes, of individual solutions …