Cross at Thine Own Risk


It’s Christmas. Don’t hurt the Episcopalians.

They’re at risk. More than anybody in Ipswich. I know.

I just become an Episcopalian this year. I’ve been attending services at Ascension Memorial Church. I’ve come to love the historic stained glass and the historic wooden pews and the historic engraved stone plaques embedded in the walls to commemorate Ipswich’s most prominent long-dead Episcopalians. I’ve enjoyed the comfort of the liturgy, the inspirational music, the really-hits-home preaching.

But in order to experience all these blessings, I’ve been taking my life in my own hands every Sunday morning.

It’s because of the traffic. The cars, and the parking, and the death-trap of County Street.

The churches of Ipswich have a variety of parking situations. If you’re a Catholic, a Presbyterian, or you’re St. John the Russian-style Orthodox, you drive to church and park in your own lot, and you walk right into your church building, no problem. Your parking lot is right there on your property, adjacent to your church building. If I’m a Baptist attending Immanuel on Central, say, or a Congregationalist attending First Church, it’s possible for me to park on the street and step directly onto church property. Safe and sound.

Ascension Church, on the other hand, lives under some kind of beautiful parking curse. These Episcopalians have arguably one of the best church parking lots in all of Ipswich. It’s so perfectly situated and delectably desirable that they have the luxury of posting a gracious sign at the entrance to their lot, which lays claim to the lot only from 8 a.m. to noon on Sundays — so parishioners have a place to put their Pontiacs, Peugeots, Porsches, and pickups — yet remains available as a community parking for scheduled events the rest of the week.

The problem, however, is that this beautiful parking lot is across the street from the church. There’s no legal curbside parking available along the church side of the street; you have to cross the street to get to the parking lot. No stop sign to protect you. No traffic signal or blinking light. No CAUTION: EPISCOPALIANS sign.

Yes, there are two crosswalks painted across County Street from the church to the parking lot. Unfortunately, neither of them corresponds to the parking lot driveways. So when, as a good Episcopalian, you pull into yon parking spot on yon parking lot and walk over to yon church, you find yourself with two options: (I) Hike ye up or down County Street to a legal crosswalk, or (II) Look both ways, cross thyself, and “Fear not.”

It is not widely known in Ipswich, but on my very first Sunday attempting to be an Episcopalian, as I made my way from the parking lot to the church, a car came zipping up County Street. By God’s grace — I assume God was on my side, as I was attempting to become an Episcopalian — I stopped short of being squished by the sedan. The driver — who appeared to be as rattled as I was — waved apologetically to me as he passed. We were both shocked to realize what had just happened. The editor of the Ipswich Chronicle — a longtime Unitarian-Universalist — had nearly run over his own wannabe-Episcopalian columnist.

And so, here we are. The Yuletide season. What lessons can we gather?

  1. “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”
  2. God bless us, every one.
  3. Drive carefully.

5 thoughts on “Cross at Thine Own Risk

  1. Anonymous

    The most remarkable thing you mentioned is that there are Peugeots in the parking lot. That is rarer than a spotting a Seventh Day Adventist out on a Saturday!

  2. David Paine

    Not to mention the pre school children whom attend five days a week in the upstairs of the parish house and also have to cross back and forth to their playground adjacent to the parking lot. I had emailed the Chief of police last asking for a presence in the mornings for the kids sake. I did get a reply but never got a police car past parking on Green Street to catch the cars running the stop sign!

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