In the foothills of North Carolina there is an old black church.
Abandoned now it sits on the "back fourty" of a historical Moravian village
called Old Salem. This church was built by and for the slaves of the
Moravians. It stands on a piece of ground that was once the "strangers
graveyard", the place Moravians barried non-moravians, and slaves.
As one walks up the steps and past the forgotten, unmarked, graves the white
boarded up windows of the church stair back at you. Stepping inside the
darkened building the floor boards answer your footsteps with creaks and
slight, bearly audible moans. The type of sound that come only from
buildings with a long past of human occupation.
The front hall leads you past the classrooms that once housed pupils. Those
sons and daughters of Africa that had come not just to hear The word of God
but to learn to make their own words on paper and to read aloud in their own
Stepping into the darkened sanctuary one sees the old pot belly stoves
that once kept the congregation warm. That congregation has long since moved
on to bigger and better quarters uptown. But this room of worship remains,
like a dog without its master, waiting for their voices to once again fill
Buildings have memories and this old church can claim some of the best and
worst memories of them all. In this room where so many enslaved hearts had
prayed with silent voices for salvation, a Union soldier once came and
announced in his Yankee voice that all were free from slavery.
That one event would have been memory enough for most buildings. But this
old church shares one more with the observent pilgram. In one corner of the
church's sactuary paint peels off the walls. Not a big deal for an old
building that has its share of cobwebs and dust. But if one looks again at
the pelling paint the unmistakeable outline of a Christmas Tree appears.
Where for over a hundred Christmases a living tree had once stood, now in
its absence, the memory of a tree remains. Whether caused by the moister
absorbed from the tree into the walls or by the candles that once lighted
the tree, the paint and plaster have pealed back in leaf like fashion to
create a perfect Christmas Tree. An image that once signified hope to slaves
remains today, as if in memorial, to those forgotten lives and long since
I have travelled the world over and walked the halls of many museums and
stood before many a famous work of art, but nothing has ever moved me like
those peeling chips of plaster and paint in the corner of that old black
church in the foothills of North Carolina.