Sunday, September 20, 2009

St. Stephen, Martyr in Middleburg

Rocky had a rare Saturday off so we made the most of it. We visited the incredibly beautiful Long Branch in Millwood and trooped around the Virginia State Arboretum. I'm a bird watcher and was delighted to see one of the these little guys: a White breasted Nuthatch.

We checked for the closest church and decided to go to St. Stephen's. I expected it to be a bit of an adventure. Middleburg is a special place. It's quiet old money and horses and skinny women who stay that way because they ride hard after the hounds. It's a place where you better not fake it because everyone knows if you belong or not. It's a place where flashy bad taste is not tolerated and new money means nothing. Sean Combs and Paris Hilton would be miserable.

The old woman in faded jeans and an ancient barn coat walking by is heiress to one of the biggest fortunes in America, the red faced "farmer" in the car full of dogs gave the money for most of the art exhibits you went to last year. The fresh faced little cherub on a pony is the son of a business titan. The daintly little cupcake of a girl at the ice cream stand spends her days training powerful, nervous thoroughbreds. It's that kind of place.

So when we rolled into St. Stephens I was delighted to find that nobody gave us the stinkeye. In fact, people were nice. No-one appeared to be disturbed or even surprised by our presence. Father had a gentle but clever sense of humor and gave an impressive homily.

The church decor is interesting. It's so carefully inoffensive that I think it must have built with the desire that it blend in with the rest of town. The paint is colonial white and blue gray. The statues are small and pale. The painting of St. Stephen is frankly, bad but the altar is large and tall and the Blessed Sacrament is right in front. You will not have to wander around this small church trying to figure out where Our Lord is. Mass was gentle and blessedly free of any weirdness. The music was okay. The cantor's voice was lovely. The lector did not show off. The decently dressed parishioners were prayerful before Mass and there was not a mad rush to leave after Communion. I was impressed by the very well behaved children. Since the Aboretum is open 365 days a year and is free, Rocky and I plan to get back there so we'll probably be praying at St. Stephen's again sometime.