The sight of the spire jutting toward the sky melts my heart and brings me to a spirit of worship. Big or small, white or black, metal or wood, all steeples mesmerize me. Why? Did it begin with a young child’s finger play? You know, the one where you fold your fingers inward and chant, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door and see all the people” as you open your hands, palms up, and wiggle your fingers.
My infatuation with church steeples may be puzzling to most, but they symbolize a multitude of things to me—mostly roots. Roots of our country founded upon Christian principles. Roots of the church enduring for centuries. Roots of small-town America sharing a camaraderie of faith. A slideshow of images clicks across my mind: a young girl adorned in her Easter dress swinging her legs to watch the shine of her new patent shoes, rowdy boys careening down the halls with shirts untucked as moms attempt to corral their energy, heads bowed in prayer whispering concerns for family and friends, and my grandmother digging in her purse for her stash of money to drop in the collection plate in support of the new baptistery.
But a steeple signifies so much more; it is the place where people gather to worship the Lord. I wonder if the Israelites had the same feeling when they entered the city and saw the temple, the place that symbolized God. When I see a majestic spire, my thoughts shift to the Almighty. I instinctively pause and pray as it directs me to the heavens, a representation of the dwelling place of Christ. Through city streets and across the countryside far and wide, the steeple declares Christ.
America's steeples descended from those designed by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Burning over four days, the blaze destroyed St. Paul's Cathedral and eighty-six other churches. The task of rebuilding many of those houses of worship fell to Wren, a young architect. He included steeples in his design of St. Paul's and about fifty other city churches, leading men and women to turn their gaze toward God. Increasingly, steeples appeared on American churches, often adorned with bells to call worshipers to services, mark time throughout the village, and summon citizens for special announcements or emergencies.
Over the years I’ve been afforded the opportunity to travel. Hundreds of locations are etched on my life map. Each time I would enter a town, the highest church steeple would call to me, beckoning me toward a place that signified peace and security. My favorite site is to reach the crest of a hill and see a town nestled in the foothills, with a steeple rising from the trees and roadways.
In the current isolation of this crazy pandemic, these church towers should mean even more to us as we’ve been forced to worship from home with many doors still closed. But God is never shut down or quarantined. As I drive through my town, the spires stand on full display of the strength and nearness of God. He is among us. Every time you see one, join me in praising our Creator who can meet us anywhere and is not relegated to the buildings that reside under those steeples.
I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place only. —Jeremiah 23:23