Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Kneeling Rail That Tells a Story

There’s much to love inside the Manakin Episcopal Church in Powhatan, Virginia, from the stately organ pipes in the back of the sanctuary to the beautiful stained glass window up front. But my favorite feature, by far, is the kneeling rail at the altar. That’s because it’s upholstered with a wonderful tapestry mural that depicts the history of the church.

Though the current building was erected in 1954, the congregation was founded in 1701 by Huguenots who came to America in search of religious freedom. The tapestry that lines the kneeling benches tells their story in pictures.  When Leslie Gould and I were in Virginia researching our Cousins of the Dove series, we happened upon this little gem by accident—and we were both thoroughly enchanted.

In a way, the mural could depict the stories in our own series as well, starting with My Sister's Prayer as Berta and Celeste Talbot sail to the New World…

…and face the challenge of starting over in the Colony of Virginia along the James River.

They and their brother Emmanuel, who later follows, would have worshipped in the octagonal log structure shown in the next panel. It features the Manakintown congregation’s first church, built in 1701.

Though I’m playing with history here, I like to imagine that the following panel brings us to the next book in the series, My Daughter's Legacy. To my mind, it could easily depict the home of Talbot descendants in the Civil War era, working side by side out in the fields themselves because they refused to own slaves.

The final panel, which shows the church as it is today, brings us to the modern part of the story, where four young Talbot descendants work together to solve a mystery that traces back to their childhood.  Every time Maddee and Nicole go to church with their beloved Nana, this is where they’re going. J

See the small structure to the far right? Here's a photo of Leslie and me standing inside that very structure on the grounds of the church:


My apologies to the creators of the tapestry, who had no idea that their artwork would end up correlating with a modern-day series of novels. But when reality becomes art becomes fiction, that's when the imagination soars!

You can learn more about the church at their website, which is where I found this lovely quote: 

While only a few of the original families are still represented on the church rolls, the strong sense of a community sharing its faith in God and its love for one another is as much a part of Manakin Church today as it was when it was founded over 300 years ago. A unique blend of past and present, the church looks forward to the future with the same strength and conviction its Huguenot founders displayed.

1 comment:

  1. That is very neat! Thank you for sharing a little bit of your inspiration for your books. I just finished My Brother's Crown. Now I'm on to My Sister's Prayer. I am intrigued by the mystery in the story.