I am a dreamer. And this was my dream. I would become a country preacher! Of course, as a retired clergyman, I have long been a preacher but my next career would take place not in a temple or in a church but on the balcony of a boathouse on Brant Lake. To be more precise, on the balcony of our white boathouse with blue shutters, dating to the mid 20th-century.
Now for my dream. On the lake side of the boathouse a balcony protruded. On occasion I would climb the steep steps to the upper level of the boathouse, walk through a space once used as a banquet room, and open the door leading out to the balcony. My excitement would surge as I stood on the balcony and towered above the water. Could there be a more magnificent pulpit from which to pontificate? [See picture.]
In the dream I stood on that balcony, my Brant Lake congregation assembled beneath me on the lake. In the summer the residents would gather in kayaks, canoes, even an aluminum fishing boat. Imagine the medley of colorful boats, red, yellow, blue, green, silver, joined as one, looking skyward towards where I was preaching! In the winter I would hand out North Face parkas to the throngs that stood on the ice below and, perhaps, have space heaters for the standing room only(since no one wants to sit on the ice) group of worshipers. Of course, the space heaters would be modulated in temperature to avoid melting the frozen lake.
So there I would be, standing on my balcony/pulpit peering down at a collection of bathing suits in summer, snow boots in winter. Those in attendance might bring offerings of stewed tomatoes, venison, perch, but such gifts, to be distributed among anyone in need, would be purely voluntary.
And, although I am retired, only the body retires. There are always more words to speak. Once a preacher, always a preacher! Therefore my voice would penetrate the still northern sky, a mellifluous sound reaching the boys camp to the right, the girls camp to the left.
That was my dream. I admit there was a touch of whimsy but is there anything wrong with that? We all need to dream, for without dreams what is left in this world? Nightmares? And I have been patient. Waiting for my opportunity. The poet Langston Hughes asked” What happens to a dream deferred?” Nothing, if we hold fast.
But maybe I waited too long. A century of blustery wind, with water seeping into the wooden joints of the balcony rotted out my pulpit. It sagged and sagged and soon it was not only unsafe but threatened to descend into a watery grave––hardly the setting for uplifting thoughts. Thus, last summer we dismantled the balcony, wood plank by wood plank. My pulpit vanished. Forever. At first I found it difficult to let go of my dream; my self image of standing above the world and preaching, my arms raised into the heavens. But, on second thought, perhaps the finest messages are those we share, not by preaching on high but by being firmly rooted to the earth, delighting in the every day events we share, caring about those closest to us and the stranger in our midst. And that may very well be heaven––a height each one of us can reach.