Maisie Crowther’s Pathway
Chuck and I met through a mutual friend, an “Experimenter.” We moved to Brattleboro in 1966 – because he was working at The School for International Training. We ‘experimented’ by sampling the local churches.
One Sunday in 1968, we attended the downtown Old Stone Church. We were ‘welcomed’ at coffee hour in the following way: A strange lady approached and said she had spent a summer in Ipswich helping my mother with the four of us children. She had changed my diapers! She was Peggy Green, married to Albert Watson. THAT didn’t scare me! Another time, a lady came up and asked if I could bake a cake for the Regional Conference the next weekend.
Sure, I replied with a gulp. THAT was an invitation to return. I had crossed the threshold!
The Gap – WVMH is built.
We spent two years in Greece, 1971-73. When we returned, All Souls at WVMH was in full swing. The church was administered by the Board. There were guest speakers, like Jeffrey Campbell. Robert MacLean encouraged art exhibits. With other parents, I helped with RE. When Peter Denny became minister in the ‘80s, art life was given a rocket boost. I was involved with the Social Action Committee, Membership, and later, the Worship Committee. Choir had resumed in the ‘70s. I learned more songs than I ever imagined.
Those activities strengthened my participation, but where was church? Hymn lyrics offered new language learning. And… why did I feel compelled to justify why I wasn’t attending the Episcopal church in town? I had joined Christ Church in Cambridge in the ‘60s when life seemed complicated. I had many Unitarian friends, however, and was introduced to King’s Chapel in Boston. In Brattleboro, I was making NEW friends at All Souls. People seemed happy that we showed up!
For 15 years, however, I had no voice in congregational decisions. It was 1985. The Annual Meeting was coming up. I noticed the open page of the Membership Book prominently displayed near the door. It was time. I picked up the pen…wrote my name. Peg Watson, standing by, exclaimed, “Welcome!” – and shook my hand. No big ceremony. Now I could Vote at Annual Meeting!
Today I consider that the practices and lessons learned in my youth are part of the WARP of my life-loom. They are gifts, the tenets I learned from my original family. Each strand remains strong, varied in substance and placement. They are stretched and tightly wound, ready to accept new threads of experience. These are represented by a mixed basket of collected fabrics — “shreds and patches” of my life. The shuttle carries the spool; the WEFT is a warm blanket, like a Saori weaving. Saori means “One of a kind.”
I learned about Japanese SAORI weaving from Jeanne Austin. Her overflowing basket of colorful scraps allowed the weaver liberty to choose their own design. Quilters sew Crazy Quilts, artists glue collages. Musicians compose medleys. These multi-grained sensory expressions are celebrated at All Souls.
My kind of church life is speckled with Board Meetings, a choir practice, crafts for a bazaar, hanging a show. Each time I attend a meeting, I cross the threshold, again, for the first time. Friends, both past and present, provide assurance when dark clouds descend. Your handshakes are warm and remind me to hold firmly. Together we are strengthened and extend welcoming hands to those seeking shelter from the stormy blasts of life.