While we were out at the site on Saturday, some of us crossed the sheriff’s “DANGER” tape in order to look through the rubble. I especially hoped to find the one item of personal sentimental value Matt and I lost: a pectoral cross that I bought for Matt in the SPCK shop in Salisbury, England, when we were there on our Wesleyan pilgrimage in May 2005. Matt had little hope of finding it, but I was sure it had survived, given all the other metal items that were in (horrendous but) recognizable condition—folding tables and chairs, file cabinets, and even communion trays.
Matt wore this cross for worship every week, and it hung in the closet with his robes and stoles. We could tell where the closet had been, and started digging in that area. It seems the falling ash formed an insulating barrier for the closet’s contents, as we found choir robes and Mardi Gras (excuse me, “Shrove Tuesday”) decorations in reasonably good condition (for what they’d been through) and, digging deeper, even uncovered a section of hardwood floor, looking shiny and polished! We found the remnants of Matt’s two robes and knew it had to be right there, since the cross hung around the hanger of whichever robe he’d worn most recently. The fabric had several large chunks of melted plastic from the hanger stuck to it, and Matt examined the chunks briefly before tossing the robe aside. I picked it up to examine more closely, and saw a bit of pewter jutting out of the blobby black mass. “Found it!” I exclaimed. “Yep—that’s it,” Matt concurred.
The silver edge and engraved alpha on the crossbar made its identity clear, but we could not manage to free the cross from its plastic and fabric encasement. Finally, we cut that section away from the rest of the robe so it would be more manageable, and the church member who had helped us dig suggested that a gentle blow-torching might melt the plastic away.
Sure enough, that did the trick, and our buried treasure was restored to us. The finish is blackened in places, but the detail is all there.
On the front: Alpha and Omega, a dove, a chalice and wafer, and two fish. On the back: “Tertium Millenium,” signifying the beginning of the Church’s third millennium.
Here's to the third millenium of Christ's Church, and to the third century (well, almost) of Bethlehem UMC. May we follow God's calling wherever it may lead.