Letter to Rev. Taylor of East Valley Presbyterian Church
On the topic of Detached Steeples
18 January 2008
Dear Rev. Taylor,
My family and I visited East Valley Presbyterian Church yesterday (17 Feb) as part of a project we’re doing. My husband and I were raised in evangelical Presbyterian homes and became Episcopalians as adults. We realized that we’d inadvertently raised a “cradle-Episcopalian”, and decided that we wanted to introduce our daughter to the wider body of Christ before she decides to be confirmed in the Episcopal church. As part of the project, and because the different churches we’ve visited (and will visit) have very different practices, we’ve had many questions that can’t be answered with one visit.
Thank you for your invitation to yesterday’s potluck. Our daughter was also invited to Sunday school by one young woman, and invited back by another. The discernment your congregation is going through sounds like an exciting event, but we felt it wouldn’t be right to engage in that process.
I am writing for two reasons. First, to share an observation with you. We had planned to visit East Valley Presbyterian Church earlier in the project, but had difficulty finding out what time the service was. The marquee out front gives the current time, but not the service time, and it wasn’t on the door when we pulled in mid-week to look. My husband Michael found it on the Presbytery page.
The second reason I am writing to ask a question that I’ve had for a long time, but never had the opportunity to ask. My question is about the detached steeple. I understand that steeples originally housed bells and then carillons, and that they were set high up on the church so that they sound would ring out across the village or town. But I note that the East Valley Steeple is, like many church steeples today, set on the ground, in front of the church. What is the (please pardon the pun) “point” of the detached steeple? Is it reclaimed from an original building that no longer exists? Is it symbolic in this time of churches that are in buildings that might be mistaken for businesses, to mark that this building is a church, and not an office? Are steeples difficult to maintain? Dangerous? Does lightening tend to strike them? Is there some other reason I’ve missed entirely?
Thank you for your consideration of my questions.