Window of Healing
"Beauty is a silent teacher," said Gary Faircloth as we entered the Leamon Rogers Memorial Chapel at the Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina, a residential care facility on Lake Waccamaw serving abused and neglected children.
Faircloth, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Homes, is also an alumnus.
After his father deserted the family, Faircloth's mom needed help caring for her children. The Columbus County facility became home to Gary and a brother until high school graduation.
Afterward, Faircloth attended community college, eventually earning a degree in social work from East Carolina. He first worked up North; he couldn't be happier to be back at Lake Waccamaw, providing leadership in a place that changed his life.
Ron Jones, a trustee of the Homes and a member of the church I serve, invited me to tour the haven for hurting children with Gary as our guide.
Growing up, I recalled my mom sending the Homes memorial gifts. A poster promoting an annual golf tournament in Pinehurst appears around town about this time each year.
Aside from the tournament, I knew little about the organization serving children for more than 50 years.
In January, beauty's quiet lessons are not so evident on campus. The starkness of winter temporarily masks its beauty.
Faircloth reminded us that come spring, the campus, home to nine residential cottages sponsored by regional civic groups - including Lions, Rotary, Optimist and Civitan - comes alive with dogwoods and azaleas.
What nature lacked, however, was more than made up for inside Leamon Rogers Memorial Chapel. The nondenominational chapel, dedicated in the winter of 2002, is traditional in style.
An open gathering space welcomes guests, inviting worshipers to traverse the center aisle, flanked by rows of polished wooden pews.
The interior, like the entrance, is unexpectedly breathtaking for the rural flatlands of eastern North Carolina. Stained glass windows along the sides of the chapel, created by North Carolina stained glass artisans, depict biblical stories - Moses parting the Red Sea, the birth of Jesus, and the conversion of St. Paul, among others.
Nowhere is the silent teacher more visible than in the chapel's rose window, designed by Rowan LeCompte, the American stained glass artist responsible for the windows at the National Cathedral in Washington.
LeCompte, who lived in Wilmington at the time, was a good friend of Stuart Sherman, the Homes' executive director from 1989 to 2003, a retired Air Force major general, interested in historic preservation.
The spectacular window, situated high above the chancel, is composed of five medallions that form a cross.
Scenes within those medallions represent the spiritual healing the Homes seek to bring about in the lives of their residents. In one scene, a physician cares for a dying man, representing corporal healing.
Two arms of the cross represent healing the world while raising community awareness. In the bottom scene a teacher instructs a class, representing healing of mind and spirit. Finally, at the center, the Homes' ultimate goal - healing the family.
Standing for a few moments with only late morning's light illuminating the chapel's nave, I wondered how a hurting child might feel entering the space for the first time.
"The child before us today," said Faircloth, "is a different child."
John Cobb, the Home's director of pastoral care agreed. Trauma experienced among the 150 children served by the Homes requires a more intensive therapeutic approach.
Fortunately, the Homes' leadership understands that a child's spiritual development factors prominently in the healing process. The chapel plays an important role in that approach.
Children and their cottage counselors worship regularly as a family. They attend musical events held frequently in the chapel. Or they can simply sit, surrounded by the chapel's quiet splendor, and pray, in a personal mode, for brighter days ahead.
Gary Faircloth is right.
At times when neither words nor music speak to a troubled spirit, beauty is a silent teacher. And by the shores of Lake Waccamaw, nestled among pine trees and hardwoods, the Leamon Rogers Memorial Chapel windows, anchored by LeCompte's magnificent creation, create a sanctuary where hurting children are bathed in the light of hope and healing.
Tom Allen is minister of education at First Baptist Church, Southern Pines. Contact him at t_w_allen @yahoo.com.
More like this story