Sunday, February 17, 2013

Visit to the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel

This is completely off-topic, but I wanted to share.

Today, my bride attended a girlfriend's bachelorette brunch in Annapolis, MD.  This gave me a great opportunity for a daddy-daughter date with 10 month-old Amelia.  Reminiscent (to me, anyway) of Southern cities like Savannah and Charleston, Annapolis is a very old (colonial-era), picturesque American city.  While strolling through the streets, we walked onto the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy (alma mater of President Jimmy Carter, a well-known Baptist of the pre-Takeover variety).

The academy has an absolutely beautiful chapel, which Amelia and I toured.  (I figure I should do as much of this sightseeing as I can now, before she gets old enough to say, "Dad, this is sooo lame!")  The original structure exists under a spectacular dome.  A nave was added in the 1930s.  Along one side of the nave, 4 stained glass windows depict New Testament scenes relating to seafaring.  Four Old Testament passages are depicted on the other side.  There is a majestic 268-rank pipe organ, but unfortunately I arrived after the service had ended.

Here are some pictures:

 View from the entrance

 One of the transepts

 The vaulted dome

 Standing outside in the cold with Amelia Louise

Looking back to the nave and balcony 

 "And he bagan to teach by the seaside and there was gathered unto him a great multitude so that he entered into a ship." -Saint Mark IV:1

 "What manner of man is this that even the winds and the sea obey him?" -Saint Matthew VII:27

"Come ye after me and I will make you to become fishers of men." -Saint Mark I:17

The U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, Annapolis, MD

This visit was very meaningful to me for two reasons.

First, I had a special friend who was a Navy chaplain in World War II.  On my first Sunday working in parish ministry, I was introduced to the congregation as a graduate of Boston University School of Theology (where I attended after OBU).  As I was greeting worshippers after the service, an old man came up to me and said, "I'm Lloyd Shephard -- B.U. School of Theology class of 1937."  Though parish ministry was a tenuous fit for me (at best) for a number of reasons and I ultimately did not pursue it as a vocation, I developed a great respect for the retired clergy in our congregation.  (Being in Florida, a number of United Methodist pastors from the Northeast and Upper Midwest attended our church in retirement.)  Lloyd was my favorite.  He volunteered at our homeless shelter on cold nights well into his nineties.  He lived on his own in a mobile home until he was 96.  When his eyesight became so bad that he couldn't live alone anymore, he sold his trailer to a neighbor for $1.  Once, when I was reading my BU Theology alumni magazine, I saw Lloyd's name on the list of donors.  I was absolutely stunned at the amount he gave.  I visited him occasionally in an assisted living facility, where he was always listening to classical music or books on tape.  He was nearly blind, so he always asked me to go through his mail.  Since most of the envelopes were direct mail solicitations, I told him it was all junk.  But he asked me to read each one.  Then he asked me to help him write checks to organizations he said he felt his Christian conscience compelling him to support, among them the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

On one visit, Lloyd gave me a silver paten and chalice he used as a Navy chaplain.  After Pearl Harbor, Lloyd took a train from upstate New York to Washington, where he enlisted in the chaplain corps.  The naval officer who did his intake said, "You're not one of those pacifist ministers, are you, Reverend?"  To which Lloyd replied, "Actually, I am.  But these men need a chaplain and I'm here to serve."  I recently found those silver Communion implements (which I never used) and look forward to shipping them to Boston University School of Theology along with a write-up about Lloyd's life and ministry.  Hopefully Lloyd's story will live on through a young seminarian preparing for ministry as a Navy chaplain at his almat mater.  The Rev. Dr. Lloyd F. Shephard died in 2008 at age 99.

The other reason I was particularly glad to visit the Naval Academy Chapel today is that the Navy Hymn ("Eternal Father, Strong to Save") is one of my favorites.  I have sung it as a lullaby to my daughter many times.  I suspect that hymn has been sung by thousands of midshipmen in that chapel over the years.

Thank you for indulging a somewhat more personal story today.  Tomorrow we begin a series on the recent goings-on at Cedarville University, a Baptist-affiliated college in Ohio.  I'll leave you with a recording of the Navy Hymn.

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful chapel! And I love your story about Lloyd. The Greatest Generation includes some truly amazing people. As a historian, I really appreciate that you are donating the communion silver and sharing Lloyd's story. It reminds me of something Dr. Sanders said back when I was at OBU. He said that as historians, we have to tell the stories of those who have died because they can no longer speak for themselves. We become their voices. I will never forget that quote and the way that his eyes filled up with tears at the end.


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