The article below was written by Eric Wilson and featured in the Amador Ledger Dispatch on 2/5/16.
We are making our way along the Highway to Heaven — a meandering, 50-mile stretch of Amador County roadway that curls its way like a grapevine through the Sierra foothills, festooned along the way with clusters of churches and houses of worship that cohere to the sides of this rural thoroughfare like those bursting bunches of grapes growing in the vineyards along Ridge Road. In light of such surroundings, Amador Christians surely must have a special place in their hearts for the words of Jesus, who said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
Last week, we started our journey on a firm foundation at the New Life Christian Fellowship, whose accent on the quadratic wisdom of four-foldness reminded us of the many sacred instances of the number four — four Gospels, four cardinal directions, the “City Built Four Square” — all of which grounded our initial thrust upon this tour up Amador County’s main theological thoroughfare.
Our next stop takes us from Four to Three; or, more exactly, from Foursquare to Three-in-One. No mystery is higher or more expressive of Christianity’s living dynamic of love than that of the Holy Trinity. And it is the threefold action of charity, compassion and mercy which the Christians of Trinity Episcopal Church in Sutter Creek, guided by the skillful hand and heart of Karen Siegfriedt, most boldly practice and proclaim.
Through their many and diverse ministries and programs, the members of Trinity Episcopal reflect the love and care that the Holy Trinity — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit — share with one another and, in turn, with all humankind and creation. They participate in the Interfaith Food Bank, and they sponsor Compassionate Amador, “a cooperative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but, more importantly, compassionate action to the center of religious, moral and political life”; they “Break Bread with Friends,” along with other faith communities in the county, like their ecclesial cousins, the Methodists; the talented and lively Carol Harper directs their music ministry; there is a Centering Prayer circle for the contemplative; they have a Prayer Shawl ministry which, “prayerfully crafts warm, comforting shawls which are blessed and given to those facing surgery, illness or grief.”
While the Episcopal Church, itself an offshoot of the Church of England, arose out of the religious restlessness of the early 16th century, our local parish started off in the relatively recent, but just as restless, American Gilded Age, in June, 1897. The Rev. W. L. Clark was assigned by Bishop Anson Graves to preside over this area. In November, 1900, a lot was purchased on Amelia Street in Sutter Creek. The Reverend William Tuson conducted the first service in the newly constructed church on November 21, 1901.
However, the most recent venue for this spirited faith-community is the Noah’s Ark-shaped church building that you see at 430 North Highway 49, which stands about a Hail Mary football throw from the Sutter Hill crossroads (itself a fitting metaphor for the virtual crucifixion one must sometimes endure in attempting to cross over certain parts of it). This facility was purchased from the folks whom we’ll meet at next week’s stop along the Highway to Heaven, the Seventh Day Adventists, who ascended up the road about a mile to the east and just slightly more heavenward.
Built in 1959 and purchased in 1995, the new church was appropriated for Episcopalianism by the members of the Trinity community who refurbished it, and moved the lovely stained glass windows from the former sanctuary. The organ was moved to the choir loft.
What with all these church refurbishings, these active ministries, these compassionate programs of charity and public service, the Christians of Trinity Episcopal Church appear to be some the most dynamic in the county. This flurry of activity is true to the spirit of the third person of the Holy Trinity, Whose appearance at Jesus Christ’s baptism, according to traditional Christian theology, confirmed the historical revelation of God’s eternal three-in-one dance of love, which choreographs and calls the steps of the invisible and indivisible Christian Church in its holy, spirited square-dance around the world, through the great honkey-tonk of history.
It is not surprising, then, that in her exhortations to her flock, Pastor Karen emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit as that Spirit is embodied in the hands, hearts and lives of God’s sons and daughters, Christ’s brothers and sisters. In one of her recent sermons, Pastor Karen preached that, “Spirituality has little to do with feelings and a lot to do with concrete actions generated by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of ordinary believers. What this means is that Holy Spirit has given you gifts. Yes, you! And when you share these gifts, God becomes visible and the moment becomes sacred. So, let’s work together to find out what those gifts are and how you can use them for the building up of the common good. For this, we were born.”