For much of the history of Annapolis, Maryland, it had but one church--St. Anne's Episcopal. The first St. Anne's was built along with the State House and King Williams School in Maryland's capital in 1696. It was the church of Church Circle, one of the two centers of Annapolis life. All Annapolis streets lead from the spokes of a wheel from State Circle or Church Circle (build deliberately to showcase the separation of church and state).
The parish grew along with the city, and the original church was added to, amended, expanded, and . . . thought rather ugly. Writers of the time likened the building to a barn, rather than a church. So in 1775, plans for a new, impressive church were laid out, the old building was razed, building materials were brought in for the second St. Anne's.
And war broke out. Collective sigh from all the Annapolitans. Rather than erecting a new church, all those building supplies were given to the war effort and a fort. Church Circle sat empty. Forsaken. Forlorn.
And worship? Where did that take place?
Well, for a while services were held at King William's School, directly across the street from the State House, but quarters were rather cramped. So the church moved to the old theater on West Street (theater having been outlawed a few years prior), where it met until St. Anne's was finally rebuilt in 1793, after 18 years.
I had the pleasure of visiting the new St. Anne's (dating from 1858) when I went to Annapolis to research Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland. Having no clue how old the current building was, my friend and I gazed with awe at the gorgeous stained glass windows (two of which are Tiffany) and the impressive cathedral style. On my way out I grabbed up the brochures they had in the vestibule, and I read them when I got home. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that my characters in 1783 would have been going to the theater for worship, rather than a church, and that Annapolis in fact had no church at the time!
But as I wove this fun fact into story, I realized that it is fact a wonderful example of the Lord's hand. Sometimes man's best intentions go awry. Sometimes even sound plans that we intend for His glory get sidetracked. Sometimes when we look at the place our dreams should be, we see only emptiness and piles of rubble.
But He always prevails. The faithful will always find a way to worship Him. And though our vision may remain dormant for a time (imagine their feelings after 18 years of transition!), His perfect plan will come to fruition in His perfect time.
Today, St. Anne's is still one of the pillars of Annapolis, and its inspiring history still stands proudly alongside the tales of our founding fathers. And personally, I love imagining the spirit of those good Marylanders who weren't to be deterred by a little thing like no church to meet in. Who surely understood as they fought for our liberty that it was the people who really make a church . . . and a nation.