A priest and performer considers religion, the arts, and the often thin space between sacred and secular, church and culture, pulpit and pew.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


My husband and I just returned from a trip to Macon County, North Carolina. As a priest currently on a two-month sabbatical from the parish I serve, one of my goals during this time away has been to get better acquainted with my forebears on father’s side, especially as they have influenced my life in the Church. My great-grandfather, John Archibald Deal, was a priest and missionary in that mountainous region of western North Carolina. This was a heritage very special to my father; he lovingly recounted this family history when I was a girl, and we made several trips to the South from our home in Ohio (my father was a very reluctant Yankee!) to see friends and by then elderly relatives, my grandmother and her sisters chief among them.

But that generation died out, my father got older and less inclined to travel; I grew up. Over time the call to serve God as a priest in the Church became clear (I’ve often wondered if it isn’t genetic) and eventually I was ordained. I inherited many of my great-grandfather’s prayer books.  And I developed a desire to get to know more about him and become familiar with the five churches he founded during his time in that mountain region that surrounds Franklin, where he was based and where my father and his brothers grew up.

Hence our recent journey south from our home in Chicago. We saw five churches in three days, visited with rectors and church members, and enjoyed beautiful weather, gorgeous colors, and stunning scenery. We found the graves of many of my relatives (one of which is shown below). All Souls’ Day seems the appropriate time to begin these reflections on my heritage and its influence on my life and vocation.  I invite you to join me!

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