By the time you read this our church group of 46 will have said “Arrivederci” to Florence and Rome. The final stop on our “Bible and Art” tour was the Basilica of Santa Croce, where legend suggests that St. Francis of Assisi laid the cornerstone. Michelangelo, Galileo and Dante are all buried here, along with many other famous Italians.

I was overwhelmed by the towering strength of the massive columns and the piercing radiance of the narrow stained glass chancel windows that enveloped us as we entered. It was like stepping from the ordinary into the extraordinary in a split second. Then my eye was drawn to the timber roof, which reminded me of ours – so warm and inviting while at the same time breathtakingly beautiful. It ushers you into the divine.

That’s when Mike Graves started describing how this gothic church is designed in the shape of the cross and he pointed to the nave of the church. Why is it called the nave he asked us? It’s called the nave, as in Navy, because the shape of the church is like an upside down ship that provides protection for us.

How has the church been an upside down ship protecting you on your journey through life? The rites of the church: weddings, funerals, baptisms, baby dedications are moments when the nave comes over us and shelters us with God’s holy protection. And then there are the times when the soul is adrift: divorce, doubt, natural disasters, illness, career crises, addiction when the church provides safe passage through the storm. And this trip has reminded me that through friendship – a shared plate of bruschetta or a cup of wine poured out while discussing the Bible and art and life and the spirit of God seems to lift us out of the sea and chaos of life and carry us safely home into Christ’s infinite love.

Our church at 61st and Ward Parkway is stunningly beautiful and it is impossible for me to walk through it without pausing to worship God. And you are the ones who make it a nave.

With grace and peace,