Today was a postcard-perfect autumn day in Rockbridge County, Virginia, where I keep my hermitage and wander the roads and woods. My husband and I took our dog Gypsy and went for a drive down to Collierstown Presbyterian Church, a little south of Lexington, to attend their Annual Church Dinner.
The beauty of the drive alone makes the trip worthwhile. Rockbridge County doesn’t show the bright reds of New England, but the golds of hickory and the russets of oak shine, and the creeks and small rivers attract herons, kingfishers, and a multitude of ducks (we even saw a bald eagle one time!).
The church itself is a small, red building, and it was founded in 1842. Unassuming and nestled into the hillside, upon which a graveyard sprawls, Collierstown Presbyterian Church has become well known in the area for this annual feast, which draws as many as 1000 visitors to this place, where the congregation numbers under 150.
Why do so many folks come? Well, the event’s historic roots are one draw, as it has been held since 1925. The church’s beautiful interior, where we wait to be served, is also finely finished and a pleasure simply to gaze at.
The food is unbeatable, too, cooked by the women of the congregation and served up by volunteers. My husband chose the turkey and ham. I had the oysters. It’s all delicious, hot and fresh.
But I think the main attraction is the welcoming, warm atmosphere of the people. The new pastor, Kevin Chanell, helps along with everyone else. Everyone talks to those around them, whether they know each other or not. My husband and I sat across from the Lewises, who gave me all kinds of contact information when they found out that I’m interested in history. Several of the members of the congregation, who don’t know my name, do remember that I teach at Mary Baldwin University and welcomed me and my husband back.
We are not members of this church, but it doesn’t matter. As the church bulletin states, “Hospitality is a Biblical command whose purpose is to minister to those around us–both believers and unbelievers.” This attitude of service clearly shows in all the members of the Collierstown Presbyterian Church, and this dinner always marks, for me and my husband, the beginning of the season of gratitude and reflection. It is a stance that would benefit all of us.