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Meeting St. Joe

So, last time, I was talking about our trip to Salado, a little town about twenty minutes drive from where we live. I had just taken us to Fletcher’s Books and Antiques, and we’d met Mr. Fletcher and seen his amazing house.


But I said there had been another surprise...much earlier on. In fact, it dates all the way to one of the very first times we went to Salado, pre-lockdown, pre-Covid. It might have been July of 2020, but I’m guessing it was actually October of that year. In any case, that was when I’ve got my first photos of Fletcher’s.


Anyway, we’d gone up for a visit. I don’t recall how we ended up at Fletcher’s. I’m guessing we toured downtown and then drove north wondering what we would find. We’d soon run out of Salado...it is (alas) an exhaustible resource...turned around, and seen the shop. We must have said “Let’s check that out,” and parked.




I wasn’t able to get any photos from the interior of the church, so here, instead, is one of my infamous snaps that has nothing to do with the story. This is Martha at breakfast in the town of Wimberley, which is just south of Austin and is one of our favorite overnight trips.



I remember looking over the little wall that separates the parking lot from a luxuriant garden on the other side. I noticed there was another building there, a charming little structure of blonde-red wood. I think I vaguely realized it was either a chapel or even a full fledged church.


We went inside the shop and toured the place. That was the day we first met Mr. Fletcher. I recall we started chatting with him. I recall, too, that he mentioned the church out back. I think I asked about it. “Would you like to see it?” he said, suddenly. We said sure, that would be great. He led us through the door, through a gate in the stone wall, down a path in the garden, and finally to the church.


Shortly, we were in the building. It was a lovely, lovely little place...full of terrific religious art, terrific stained glass, beautiful statues of saints, Hispanic Santos, and much, much more.


We learned that it was St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church (https://www.stjosephsalado.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/stjosephsalado/). We also learned, later, that Mr. Fletcher had been one of a small group of people whose work led to the creation of St. Joseph’s in Salado. Without them, and him, I’m sure it would not have happened.


I learned as well that he was responsible for much of the art and glorious wood floors and ceiling. He is, after all, a dealer in art and antiques. He also travels all over Texas, it seems, and all over Texas...as all over America...there are small towns withering away in the new economic climate of post-industrialization. Old homes and old churches are abandoned. Or, they are torn down to make way for spiffy new townhouses and housing developments.


Mr. Fletcher has, I gather, made it his business to save what he can from the wreckage. When, for example, a church is fated for the bulldozer and the developer, he’ll nip in and purchase whatever he can that is good and fine--which he then offers to collectors, developers, architects, home builders, DYI-ers, and so on.


An aside, I wish my parents had met him. They rather fell into all those categories, except for the architect (that’s my son’s job). They would have enjoyed meeting him and perhaps become his customers. Or...maybe, on the other hand, it was just as well they didn’t. As it was, when they passed, their house was full of stuff, everything from modernist paintings to legions of computers. I shudder to think what they would have done if they’d had access to six foot six statues of St. Francis and great flapping flocks of Art Deco Sphinxes.


But, anyway, much of the art which Mr. Fletcher has gotten out of those churches ended up here, at St. Joseph’s, in Salado. Which, in my opinion, is an excellent afterlife.




As I say, I don't have any interior shots of the church, but here are a few pictures of places in Salado that I just happen to like -- a lovely, ancient wooden door and the interior of Greenfield’s Coffee.


Anyway, I gather that St. Joseph’s is a vital little church. It isn’t huge. I was told, later, that as of right now, it has a congregation of slightly over a hundred, but that a typical Sunday will have an assembly of up to 80. That’s pretty darn good for a small church in this day and age.


In fact, I’ve been wondering about that. You know that I, personally, have a *complicated* relationship with religion. I was raised, after all, in a family in which you could not be an atheist because “it is impossible to logically prove a negative.” Though, even if that weren’t the case, I would reject anything which has so often been the cause of horrible things of late -- whether in Iran, or Syria, or the Middle East, or Afghanistan, or the Twin Towers, or...increasingly, it seems, in American churches, where villains and fools preach hatred and death.


Yet, here and there, I find a church which gives me a little hope...which seems to be genuinely devoted to Christ’s directions to his followers--i.e., that they feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and break the chains of the enslaved.


St. Joseph’s seems to be one of those. I have watched a few services there on the Church’s Youtube page (https://www.youtube.com/c/StJosephSaladoTexas) and what I’ve seen is encouraging. Which is good. Because a place of such material beauty should have a spiritual loveliness as well. Otherwise, the lack of symmetry would be...


Appalling.



More to come.


***


As I say, I don't have any interior shots of the church, but here are a couple of pictures of places in Salado that I just happen to like -- a lovely, ancient wooden door and the interior of Greenfield’s Coffee.


Stay tuned!


***



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