Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hidden Beauty of Texas Painted Churches

Traveling the back roads of Texas is always a serene experience.  Miles of curving pastures, endless sky and cows standing hillside placid like decoys.  With College Girl 300 miles away, I have lots of new roads to explore.  The roads between Houston and San Antonio are loaded with painted churches; quaint country churches so unassuming their exteriors speak to the simplicities of frontier life. Upon opening the doors, one is transported to the rich texture and vibrant beauty of the Czech immigrants who infused the ordinary with their homeland traditions.
Saints Cyril and Methodius Church marks one's arrival in Dubina, Texas.  Eight miles north of I-10, on FM 1383, Dubina is a ghost town whose charm has never worn off. Stopping by this past Saturday, the clouds loomed with a threat of rain but inside the church was prepared for a wedding so treading past the last pew was not allowed.  I can only imagine how spectacular the starry ceiling looks in the evening glow!
Aside from the church, reception hall and a few meticulously kept houses, the evidence of former prosperity lies behind barbed wire.  The cotton gin and blacksmith shop are kept at safe distance, protected from ghost seekers.
Continuing along Farm Road 1383, Ammannsville sits three miles NW of Dubina and is home to Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church
The drive between Dubina and Ammannsville will turn any city dweller in to country-drooling Texan in less than  one sharp curve.  The hillsides give way to panoramic views and well preserved farm houses look like pages from Country Living. But anyone who has lived the country life knows it's not all front porch sitting.  It's hard work with little reward.
And when Mother Nature denies the farm lands rain, crops are in danger.  In this cotton-rich country this year's drought has devastated the yield. 
Ammannsville's painted church is pink heaven inside.  Floral motifs frame every ceiling panel and stained glass windows block out all negativity.  The pastel palette lightens the mood and offers hope, rebirth and good spirits to all who enter.
I was alone in the church for a good while, taking a moment to pray, and longer moments to listen.  The absolute silence was musical and I was reluctant to leave.  I imagined this small church filled with song from the choir loft, voices in praise softly collecting within the walls. 
Generations, decades, lives welcomed, unions consecrated, and souls passing.  All mingling in the songs, the silence, the hopes and prayers of those who congregate in these smallest works of Texas art still standing in honor and glory to their founders.

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