On Saturday last I drove up from Baton Rouge through northern Louisiana up to Cleveland, Mississippi in the delta, where my traveling companion Mark Bonta is a geography professor at Delta State University.
I’m looking forward to spending a few days poking around this fascinating part of the south with Mark and his family and giving a couple of talks to students at Delta State on various aspects of Australian life and culture.
En-route to Cleveland we traveled mainly on Highway 61 and went through the old river towns of Natchez, Vicksburg and Port Gibson, where we came across a few interesting churches – these of the more established kind and not the more recent and idiosyncratic fundamentalist, Pentacostal or just plain ‘other’ variety – more on those later.
This church steeple is from the First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson Mississippi, that was founded in 1807 and which, for obvious reasons, is known as “The Church With the Hand Pointing Heavenward” and is described as a:
“…unique house of worship, erected in 1859, having beautiful architectural lines. The hand is 12 feet tall, with the overall height from sidewalk to finger tip being 165 feet.”
The First Presbyterian Church at Port Gibson was built under the enthusiastic leadership of the Reverend Zebulon Butler, who had the unfortunate distinction of also being the subject of its first service – his funeral.
The original Hand was made of wood – to the delight of the many woodpeckers in the area – this was soon replaced by the current metal version, which has become Port Gibson’s most famous landmark.
Apparently there is another church with a ‘hand pointing heavenwards’ in Griffin, Georgia where they say that the Hand on the steeple is:
…a finger lifted heavenward, symbolic of the church’s ministry of pointing the way to God; pointing the lost to the Savior; pointing the Christian to God’s full measure of love; pointing the discouraged to the source of peace; and pointing the indifferent to the One he has forgotten. A hand on a steeple – reminding its members of a responsibility and a glorious privilege – symbolic of our hands dedicated to point the way to God through our Lord, Jesus Christ.
We found a few more interesting places of worship on the way up and I’ll post on those over the next few days – I’ll also keep my eyes open when I drive on a few more backroads back to Baton Rouge & New Orleans later this week.