Bill tells us more about life in Northport Point, Michigan from inside Atwill Memorial Chapel, and shares a prayer written by Katie Lancaster.
Tour of Atwill Memorial Chapel in Northport Point, Michigan
Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg and I’m one of the ministers at Kenilworth Union Church, and this is Doogie, my assistant minister. Doogie broke his toe the other day, so say a little prayer for Doogie. It hurts a lot right now. He can’t even go in the lake. He loves Lake Michigan but he can’t go in the lake.
So as I told you last week I have a preaching gig in Michigan every August. I’m the August chaplain at Atwill Memorial Chapel here in Northport Point, Michigan. Northport Point is on Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, it’s sometimes called Michigan’s pinky finger. Northport Point is about halfway between the small town of Northport and the Leelanau lighthouse at the very tip of the peninsula.
This is about the most un-Chicago-like place I can think of. The population of Northport is 525, which means that there are apartment buildings in Chicago that have more people than Northport. There’s not much up here, really, just cherry trees and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. There are no big box stores; there’s not a hospital; there are just tiny, tiny high schools that have to band together to field a baseball or basketball team. I think there were eight graduates in the class of 2020 at Northport High School this year.
So there’s not a single stoplight in the entire peninsula, and there’s no light pollution, so it’s a wonderful place to watch the stars, including especially today on August 11 and August 12, which is the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower. The Perseid Meteor Shower is the dust of an ancient comet in the constellation Perseus the Hero, and that dust burns up when it collides with Earth’s atmosphere and leaves a trail of light, a meteor shower, maybe 40 or 50 meteors per hour.
So thank you, Kenilworth Union Church, for setting me free every August so that I can come up here and lead worship. It’s a charming place to lead worship. It’s very simple in its rusticity, it’s a very humble place. As you can see inside and out, the chapel is constructed of cedar logs taken from the local forest. You can see that the pillar on the pulpit is a cedar stump and the desk itself is a sheet of cedar bark and it’s the same way with our altar.
The sacred symbols on the altar are just evergreen sticks. The Chi Ro—Chi and Ro are the first two letters in the Greek word Christos, which stands for Jesus Christ—and of course the alpha and the omega. God is the alpha and omega, first and last, beginning and end, origin and destiny.
So, there are ten pews and a maximum of 14 people each for space for 140 people in this room. So it’s a very intimate space. So the chapel board thought it would be wise this summer to suspend worship because of the coronavirus, and the chapel board, even though they didn’t need me up here this August, invited Kathy and me to spend the month with them anyway, which I thought was very generous.
So just like back home at Kenilworth Union, I’m trying to stage virtual worship from here in the chapel. My brilliant and cherished friend Sheila records me on her iPhone and she posts the recording to YouTube, just like we do at home, and so just like back home since March 15, here at the chapel I’m preaching to an empty house and so I am eager for your safe return to the chapel here and to Kenilworth Union back home.
So at Kenilworth Union, we all know that Katie Lancaster is the greatest pray-er on the staff. She writes such beautiful prayers and sometimes I’ll borrow them and adapt them for use up here. A couple years ago, Katie wrote a wonderful prayer for our Confirmands who were going on the Boundary Waters confirmation adventure in Minnesota. It’s such a perfect prayer for that context and for here, surrounded by water, that I have written my own adaptation for Katie’s prayer, and I want to share with you right now. Let’s pray.
Meet us at the water’s edge, O God.
Meet us where the waves froth the shore,
where the lucid air reminds us of something beyond ourselves.
Restore tired souls with the gifts of our peninsula;
silence and solitude; awe and gratitude;
the crystal waters, a following breeze,
the warmth of the sun on our faces;
scarlet sunrises for the east side,
and saffron sunsets for the west;
the gift of community; the laughter of children;
the grace of ancient friendships and the surprise of new;
the sense of home that comes from shared experience.
God, we welcome your benedictions,
and offer up our prayers, for all this and more.