My first view of Zion’s sanctuary was through the little door behind the chancel. It was during my visit with the vestry and search committee on January 31 of this year. I instinctively went to the altar and gazed at the alcove behind. As the lights slowly warmed up, the image of Christ Enthroned, sparkling in thousands of golden mosaic pieces, materialized before my eyes. It mesmerized me and took me back to my visits to the Holy Land and Turkey. Some of the mosaics I saw there were dated from as early as the Sixth Century, expressing the faith of a people now long gone and the artistry of an anonymous iconographer.
I am a newcomer to Zion, building my own memories and impressions from the stories you all share with me and the histories I piece together. This icon, in Zion’s apse, represents the Byzantine figure of Christ enthroned in glory. Although faded by the dirt and soot of incense and age, Christ has the expression of wise omnipotence and piercing compassion. This is the same image that has centered me in prayer for over ten years now.
Zion Church is only one of New York’s hundreds of aging and antiquated Episcopal structures, sapping the resources of congregations struggling with low membership and reduced income. A significant portion of the funds raised over Zion’s lifetime have gone to the repairs, upkeep and remodeling of Zion’s worship space and buildings. It is easy to diminish the value of our worship space in the face of financial hardship.
Zion’s history is embedded in its holy space. It stands as an invitation to the community to come and rest for a moment in this liminal place between heaven and earth. The space, adornments and structure create a numinous territory where God invites us to be still and know that God abides - in this space, in our history, and in our hearts. Our Church home is alive in its heritage and full of hope for its future.