Archive for the ‘Oysterville Church’ Category

“One of them arty fellas is over by church…”

Tuesday, July 11th, 2023

Oysterville Church and Steeple

On page A8 of last week’s Observer was an article headlined “Sunday Music Vespers features Peninsula Guitar Trio.”  Above it was a picture of the Oysterville Church’s steeple with a caption that started like this:  “Oysterville Church is one of the most photographed buildings in Southwest Washington and…”  That came as no surprise to any of us who live nearby.  According to the Visitor’s Register in the Church, more than 10,00 people visit each year — and most of them take a picture or two.

Oysterville Church 1952

But that wasn’t always the case.  When I was a kid, the church had long since been abandoned by the Baptist Association.  We were just too small and too remote to support a preacher.  And so, my grandfather, H.A. Espy, became the caretaker — a sort of sexton for the church.  By then, he was old and infirm.  He couldn’t do much more than patch the roof now and then and board up the steeple and a window or two where they were leaking — never mind painting it or keeping it open for visitors.  It wasn’t much photographed in those days.

When Oysterville became a National Historic District in 1976, the Espy Family prevailed upon the Baptists to divest their interest in the church and return it to the Espy Family.  (In 1892 R.H. Espy had donated the property and paid $1500 for the building of the church as a gift to the American Baptist Church Association with the provision that it be returned to the his family should it cease being used by them. (No regular Baptist services were held after the 1930s.)  Once the “return” was accomplished, The Espys donated the church to the Oysterville Restoration Foundation which took on the responsibility for its upkeep and maintenance.

Sketch by Noel Thomas from our garden c. 2018

And so… it has become a visual (and acoustical) treasure — one of the most photographed buildings in the region, as the paper said.  Or as our 1980s neighbor “Old Bob Meadows” used to point out about the many people who set up their easels nearby to paint its likeness — “There’s another one of them arty guys over at the church!  Ain’t that something!”  Indeed it was and continues to be to this day!

Cate and Starla Gable! Vespers! Sunday!

Friday, September 2nd, 2022

Starla and Cate Gable

Did you catch Cate and Starla on Carol Newman’s  KMUN show, “Arts Live and Local,” today?  They told about their plans for Sunday Vespers at the historic Oysterville Church — a musical tribute to women songwriters including, of course, our own Mary Garvey, and at least one song by Cate, herself.  There will be ballads, folk songs, old favorites and audience participation.  It sounds like the Gable sisters are planning to close out the Summer Vespers Season in grand style.

It’s their tenth Vespers performance which is truly but a drop in their lifetime bucket of music together.  The sisters began singing, literally, about the time they could walk,  Singing in harmony came shortly thereafter — a spinoff from their dad’s involvement with a nationally rated barbershop quartet.  “When we would come to the beach from Yakima, dad kept us ‘occupied’ by teaching us the latest songs his barbershop quarter was singing,” they said.  Dad, Mom, Cate, and Starla each took a part and the long drive passed harmoniously in more ways than one.

Sunday will be the final Music Vespers program for 2022.

I took a my own little drive around Oysterville this afternoon while I listened to their radio show in my car.  They played two songs, live, and I am so happy I was back in my garage for the second one — the lullaby from the Big Island that they sing at the close of every show.  I wept and wept… tears of remembrance and tears of longing, tears of heartache and tears of thankfulness.   It’s just one of those songs… And Cate and Starla are two of those singers…

I wonder if I’ll weep again on Sunday.  Perhaps I’ll stuff my pockets with Kleenex just in case.  No matter what, I can scarcely wait!  It’s like hearing angels sing!  Truly.

And I quietly drizzled along!

Tuesday, June 14th, 2022

The Oyster Crackers, 2021

Yesterday morning I had the privilege and pleasure of sitting over at the church while the Oyster Crackers rehearsed for Vespers.  They are the first music group scheduled for the summer — JUNE 19th, 3 o’clock.  Mark your calendars!

 I had heard that they dedicated a song about “wood chopping” to Nyel at their Performing Arts Center performance last week and I was curious.  Of course I wept through the whole thing, even though it was toe-tappingly upbeat.  (But then I quietly drizzled along through most of their songs yesterday — Nyel loved them all!)

Randal Bays and Susan Waters, 2019

Besides satisfying my curiosity and engaging in a bit (just a tad) of personal wallowing, I wanted to get a feel for their upcoming Vesper program.  I’ll be presenting the first “Oysterville Moment” that Sunday and I’d like my remarks to be in keeping with this year’s brand new Vespers format.  It will lean more heavily on the music aspect of things than previously and the line-up of our talented local friends as well as of the five or six acoustic groups from farther away is impressive indeed.

Fingers crossed that the summer will softly open its arms to us all so that we can truly enjoy and be uplifted and renewed by our summer Music Vespers series after its long hiatus!

What do you know about Vespers services?

Sunday, January 16th, 2022

Oysterville Church by Bob Duke

Suffering from an attack of Sunday Morning Curiosity, I spent a few minutes today trying to research where Vespers services are regularly held.  First I looked locally and found Oysterville Church listed which we all know is not true.  At least not right now.  For one thing, it’s not summer and that’s the only time Vespers has ever been offered in the once-upon-a-time Baptist Church across the street.  Besides which, for the past two summers, Covid concerns have caused the closure of Vespers in Oysterville.

The only other place I saw listed was at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Their website said:
On Sunday nights we gather for our student-led Vespers service, which draws thousands of young people from across the Twin Cities.
It’s a service that lets you reflect, pray, sing out, and praise God for what He’s done and who He is. And it’s here for anyone who is looking for Sunday night worship.
Each night takes on an atmosphere that’s unique to the worship on stage and the worshipers that have gathered.

Oysterville Church Vestibule

As I searched, I found many other churches listed — every church on the Peninsula, for instance, but none referred specifically to a Vespers service.  I did, however, find this description of Vespers on the Encyclopedia Britannica website:

Vespers, evening prayer of thanksgiving and praise in Roman Catholic and certain other Christian liturgies. Vespers and lauds (morning prayer) are the oldest and most important of the traditional liturgy of the hours. Many scholars believe vespers is based on Judaic forms of prayer and point to a daily evening celebration observed among Jews in the 1st century BCE.

By the 3rd century CE the writings of Tertullian show clear evidence of an evening prayer. During the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries, cathedral choirs and monastic orders developed the vespers service, as it was known for centuries thereafter. Following the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), the Roman Catholic service was translated into the vernacular and simplified, but it continues to revolve around the Magnificat canticle, various psalms and antiphons, and readings that vary according to liturgical season.

The Lutheran and Anglican churches both include an evening prayer service in their liturgies. In the Anglican church, evening prayer traditionally is called evensong and can be found in the 1549Book of Common Prayer.  Both Protestant churches revised their rite for evening prayer during the 1970s, and both rites are patterned closely after the traditional Roman Catholic evening prayer. In the Anglican church the revised prayers offer alternative choices for greater individual choice among congregations.

Inside The Oysterville Church 

An early name for vespers is lucernarium, literally “lamp-lighting time” in Latin referring to the candles lit for this service when it was held in the early evening.

It’s tempting to close out this blog with “Here endeth the first lesson.”  Which might indicate that there will be a second.  Which I doubt.

Signage: is it all in the wording?

Monday, September 6th, 2021

Whitby Abbey and St. Mary’s Church

I spent a fun few hours last night looking at slides from a 1985 trip to England.  Slides!!!  OMG!  Fortunately, they were stashed away with a little hand-held viewer so I could take a look all these many years later.  Why in the world did we have slides made?  Did we have a projector?  Did we actually watch them after the trip?  And, even more curious, did we show them to anyone else?  OMG!

But, they were fun to look at one last time.  A young dark-haired me showed up in two or three — Nyel not at all, so we know who must have been the photographer.  I’m happy to say that there were no “surprises” — I remember every view and nuance of the trip.  I even remember this sign which was posted in the vestibule of St. Mary’s Church at Whitby Abbey in North Yorkshire:

Melting Ice Cream & Lolly Sticks dropped
in the Church add to the work of the

Church Maid & make this old Church untidy.
Please leave them outside.
Dog owners too are asked to leave
their pets in the porch.
Campers are warned not to sleep
in the Church Yard or on the
Abbey Plain.


I couldn’t help but wonder as I read the words if that sign was any more effective than the informational signs recently placed on the doors of our Oysterville Church.  Our new signs basically ask those who enter the building to wear masks.  In my observation: some do and some don’t.  I wonder if we could sneak in the term “Church Maid” — so much better than “the cleaning lady” and, though it’s not in use on the current sign, is the term we usually hear.  And “lolly sticks” and “untidy” — you do have to smile.  I hope such a sign is still being used at Whitby Abbey and, even more, I hope that visitors pay attention to it.


The Oysterville Church Is Open Again!

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Seeing the “Church Open” sign from my dining room window once more makes me feel that all’s right with the world again — at least with this little corner of it. In the vestibule, though, on each of the inner doors — one leading to the sanctuary and the other to the room we’ve always called “The Sunday School Room” — are signs asking visitors who enter to please wear masks.  Perhaps instructions/suggestions will change once we get Governor Inslee’s promised July 1st Directives.

As for scheduled events — the first to take place since sheltering began in March 2020 was a wedding last Saturday.  And what a wedding it was!  All the men arrived in kilts and the women in ankle-length pleated skirts or other authentic-looking regalia and, from what I could see, all in the same tartan.  Perhaps, because of Covid uncertainties, they had confined the guest list to family members only which would explain the matching tartans.  Even the pipers’ kilts matched.   I wish I had taken a picture, but now that I am no longer the church scheduler and have no interaction with brides beforehand, I felt it might be a bit intrusive.

The other regular church usage in the summer, of course, is our twelve weeks of  Sunday Music Vespers services.  Traditionally, they have begun on Fathers’ Day and continued through Labor Day Sunday.  At the present time,  the Oysterville Restoration Foundation does not have a Vespers Co-ordinator, so Carol Wachsmuth and I have agreed to do the programming for August and September with the caveat that the scheduling will remain flexible — just “in case. ”   All things being equal, there will be nine Music Vespers services — five in August and four in September.  Keep your fingers crossed!

We hope that ministers and musicians and the other volunteers who make the weekly services possible will be willing to commit to a date that could, in a worst case scenario, be cancelled at the last minute.  It surely isn’t our first preference — not how we’d choose “to run this railroad” — but as long as there  are possibilities of a “fifth wave” or some other dread Covid follow-up, “flexible” will be our word to live by.

Meanwhile, feel free to come and visit the church.  You might remember that it was refurbished inside and out in 2018 and 2019, and there are few places amid summer’s hubbub that are lovlier for spending some quiet moments of peace and thankfulness.



Spires, Inspirations and Aspirations

Saturday, May 1st, 2021

The 1892 Spire Handoff, April 30, 2021

The closest thing Oysterville has to a museum is “Tucker’s Arcade” which you probably know is a work in progress.  Probably always will be.  Tucker is a collector, after all, and an eclectic one at that.  There is never an end in sight to interesting possibilities.

Meanwhile… for years our Back Forty has been the repository for many Oysterville-related items — paintings by known and unknown artists (especially of the church), old photographs and letters and documents from or to or concerning old Oysterville residents and, almost anything church-related that needs storage for “a while.”

Perhaps the church connection dates back to the 1892 construction of the church by my great-grandfather — the same year that he purchased this house to be used as a parsonage.  Somehow, the house has been collecting odd bits and pieces ever since.  For years before the church had heat, the little pump organ spent every winter here in the house.  Votive candles left over from weddings and vases from vespers and extra reflectors from the (now) non-existent kerosene lanterns all wait against the day they will be needed.  And that is to say nothing of the many boxes of walking tours that await distribution once the church can be opened to the public again — an ongoing responsibility for whoever lives here, it seems.

Doubly in-spire-ing! September 2012

As Nyel and I begin our Big Cleanout Project, we think about these things.  Some items  will eventually go back to the church but some… we’re not sure.  So it is with the 1892 church spire.  When it was replaced in 1980 during the Church Restoration project, the old one came to our house and, in lieu of an Oysterville museum, here it has stayed.  Waiting.  In 1912, the current spire (made by Ossie Steiner and, actually, just a little bit bigger than the original) came down for re-painting.  Tucker and I had our pictures taken with the new and the old spires and Tucker said something like, “If you ever decide you need to get rid of this original spire…”

So it was that, last night, Nyel and I turned over that historic piece of Oysterville to Tucker.  He says he has the perfect place for it in his Arcade.  “But what we really need in Oysterville is a museum,” he said.  We couldn’t agree more.  Even though we love and adore the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum and have great respect for the all-encompassing history archived at the Pacific County Historical Society Museum, it would be nice if Oysterville had a little place of its own.  You know — an inside space to reflect the history of the Historic Oysterville and the National Historic District (which is a museum, of sorts, all on its own.)

The Swallows Are Back!

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

Cliff Swallows at the Church – June 1, 2020

Nyel saw them first — day before yesterday, circling around outside our kitchen window.  The swallows are back!  If they’d just slow down a tad, maybe we could tell if they are of the Cliff or Barn variety.  Paul, our ORF President, especially wants to know!

Cliff swallows are the ones who nest in the eaves of the Oysterville Church.  Some people call them “Mud Swallows” because they make their neat round nests of mud rather than of grass and mud like barn swallows’ cup-like structures.  Cliff swallows usually nest in colonies which, in the western United States can number up to 3,700 nests in one spot according the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

We hope they are not aiming to match that record at the Oysterville Church!  But even a dozen or so nests can produce quite a mess on the walls — not only unsightly but damaging to the paint and expensive to clean up.  Paul has made it a mission to discourage them from nesting on the church — even had some special wooden “inserts” placed along the eaves last winter. Whether or not they will work should be determined shortly.  Bets are running about evenly here in Oysterville!

Barn Swallows (second batch) on Our Front Porch – Aug. 9, 2016

Meanwhile, we are watching to see what “our” barn swallows will do.  Nyel has reluctantly agreed that they can “have” the kitchen garden area, but he’s hoping to discourage them on the front porch.  Lots of luck with that, I say.  And besides… I love to watch them raise their families and chirp from on high at our backyard chickens.  I wonder if the girls have flight-and-swoop envy?  Its always hard to tell with chickens.

Books, covers, and what you can tell…

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

The “Sequel” is Coming

So… the publisher has sent the book cover for my approval and, thus far, I’m having a love/hate reaction.  I love how it looks — the Oysterville Church, gorgeous as always, and with a rather ominous background that seems ghostly, indeed.  But I hate the implications with the picture situtated, as it is, right below the title: Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula.

Perhaps I’m being super-sensitive, but the insinuation (at least to me) is that the church, itself, is haunted. It is not. Never has been.  Nor has there ever been an idle rumor to that effect.  But, sure as shooting, if the book wears that cover, the “reports” will begin and before you know it the TV cameras and the ghost-busters will arrive…  Or, that is my fear.

I expressed my concerns to my editor who, I hasten to say, has been great!  She is in consultation with the cover designer to see what can be done.  I thought it might be easier to change the title than to find a different, more suitable photograph but she said that it’s too late.  It’s been “finalized and logged for their retailers” which I guess means the word about the book is being circulated as we speak.

Stay tuned for Book Launch information!

Maybe that old adage “You can’t tell a book by it’s cover” will hold true and people will realize that there are no stories in this one about the church being haunted.  On the other hand, perhaps the article by Corinne A. Kratz of Emory University in the May 1994 Cultural Anthropology journal is right.  In “Telling/Selling A Book By It’s Cover” she wrote:  “… a cover is a marketing device, an aesthetic prduction, and a representation that may relate to the book’s content. What picture can help sell a thousand books?”

Or maybe my concerns are for nothing.  Maybe I should just be content with the thought that the reading public has more sense than we credit them with.  Maybe…

Shoulda… Woulda… Couldn’t

Sunday, September 6th, 2020

A Sign of Summers Past

In a normal world (and, hopefully, in the new normal world, whenever that arrives) this should/would have been the last Sunday of Music Vespers at the Oysterville Church.  Without our usual three o’clock Sunday services, it has seemed a strange summer, indeed.

To us, it has been the most noticeable of all the oddities of this Sheltering Summer.  Not only because we have attended since “the beginning” (some 40 years ago) and not only because we have often participated in the programs, but also because we are right across the street in the once-upon-a-time parsonage.  There is an almost visceral connection between this house and the church.

Vespers July 15, 2013

I’m sure it has always been so.  The church, funded by R.H. Espy was completed in the fall of 1892 and was dedicated on October 9th of that year.  In June 1893, the first full-time pastor arrived.  Rev. Josiah Crouch and his family were ensconsed in this house which Deacon Espy had purchased for the purpose.

For the first time since the Baptist Church had been established in Oysterville in 1871, the little congregation had both a house of worship and a parsonage for their minister.  Heretofore, they had met at Deacon Espy’s home each week and, if an itinerant minister was not available, one of the congregation led the service.  When the Crouch family arrived there was great rejoicing on the part of the Oysterville Baptists.

Susan Waters, PhD – at Vespers, June 23, 2019

Now, of course, the little church is owned by the Oysterville Restoration Foundation, it is ecumenical and no longer denominational, and it is used for many purposes.  The only regular services occur on summer Sundays from Father’s Day through Labor Day Sunday.  Except for this year when they couldn’t.