Calvary Episcopal Church

Memphis, Tennessee


The Last Sunday after Pentecost
November 21, 1999
Volume 44, No. 44

A "Thin Place": The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial
I was raised in a socially liberal home. However, when it came to politics and finance, I was cooked to well done on hot Republican fires (to quote a friend of mine who reads this Chronicle front page). When I was a young lad, the name of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was often raised with verbal tirades by my conservative father. In seminary (after my brief stint in the glass industry), when I found myself journeying politically more to the left and finally registered in the Democratic Party, my dad, no doubt, wondered what other great sacrifices were going to be required of him because of my liberal leanings. Little did he know.

The above is mere prelude to my recent "thin place" experience at the Roosevelt Memorial. Celtic spirituality speaks of "thin places;" these are physical locations or spiritual spots where the world of The Spirit; and our everyday world is so close together, so tight, that through this thinness you experience "the More." That is what happened to me at the Roosevelt Memorial.

It is Washington, D.C.'s newest and most expansive memorial. Situated between the Tidal Basin and the Potomac River, it is divided into four large outdoor galleries or rooms, one for each term of this 32nd U.S. President (1933-1945). Each room conveys the spirit of this great national and international leader. They are shaped and defined by huge walls of red granite. Etched on the walls, in large print, are some of the enduring quotations from this President who led America out of a devastating depression and through our most terrible World War. Quotes like: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself . . . we must choose the path of Social Justice, The Path of Hope, The Path of Love toward our fellow man . . . The test of Progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little . . . Freedom of Speech. Freedom of Worship. Freedom from Want. Freedom from Fear." On rolled the lines from this visionary leader. On went the inspirations from this mid-century American prophet who spoke to my soul like a Jeremiah or a Jesus. Carolyn and I (and others) were reduced to whispers of awe. It seemed to me as though the Word of the Holy One was using Roosevelt's words to speak again to humanity at the edge of a millennium. It was a thin place. And I was changed again.
~Doug Bailey+

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