My dad was a very fine woodworker. He kept many kinds of wood on hand in his well-equipped workshop. With spruce and pine, he built tables and chairs and bookcases. With mahogany, he rebuilt our kitchen cupboards and crafted a beautiful corner cabinet in the dining room for my mom’s glass and china. But oak, by far, seems to have been the wood he especially loved. He liked the grain and the many colours of stain with which this wood could be finished.
When he retired, he turned his hand to making all kinds of church furnishings, including small tables, lecterns, credence shelves, altar book stands, candle sticks, flower stands and altar crosses. Every piece was a labour of love—for the Lord and for the church. One of the most exhilarating moments of his life was an invitation to exhibit his work at the Canadian Christian Festival III, held in Halifax in 1989. I remember how proud he was to show me “his card,” which people could pick up from his booth at the marketplace.
Many of his pieces can be found at Christ Church in Dartmouth, N.S., St. John’s Church in Lunenberg, N.S., The Cathedral Church of All Saints in Halifax, and the Chapel of the Holy Apostles at Church House in Toronto.
Of all he made, I have but one piece—a solid oak cross about 18
inches high and 12 inches wide. I keep it in my study at home. As the late afternoon sun streams in the window, that cross shimmers with all the beauty of its original finish and polishing.
Not a day goes by that I do not look at that cross and think of my father, and of our Heavenly Father and his love for us all. For in his Son, in his life and death, God was reconciling the whole world to himself. Once an instrument of shame, the cross has become for us a sign of our salvation. Once a tree of death, it has become for us the tree of life. For some, as St. Paul says, the cross is foolishness and for others, a stumbling block. But for us, it is the wisdom and power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24) to love and restore all things in his well-beloved Son. With Christians the world over, we sing with all our forebears in the faith,
“We glory in your cross, O Lord, and praise and glory your holy resurrection for, by virtue of your cross, joy has come to the whole world.”
Through Holy Week and Easter, may we know that joy afresh. Ω
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.