The Gate House – New Harmony, Indiana
Last evening we came to New Harmony, Indiana. We are staying in one of the Guest Houses right across from the Roofless Church, built by Philip Johnson. Although we are “just visiting” here for a day; it is a bit more than visiting for me. New Harmony was my home for 8 years (2002-2010). St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in New Harmony called me to be their rector in 2002.
New Harmony sits along the banks of the Wabash River. The Wabash flows south and at New Harmony it makes a turn to flow west. Just west of New Harmony it meets the Ohio River. Perhaps it is the energy of the river as it makes this turn that calls people to this green valley of trees and fields.
Gates to the Roofless Church
The Harmonists, who were a sect of the German Lutheran Church, moved their small Utopian community here in 1814 and built a successful community which thrived for a decade. In 1825 the Harmonists sold the town and buildings to Robert Dale Owen, an industrialist, from Wales. Buildings from both the Harmonist and Owen periods have been preservedand restored making this an important historic site. In addition to the historic significance of the town, it’s importance has been enhanced by a generous benefactor, Jane Blaffer Owen. She married Kenneth Owen who was a direct descendant of Robert Owen. Grounded in spirituality, she was able through her wealth, to bring yet another layer of beauty and grace to this town. Through a foundation named for her father, Robert Lee Blaffer, she renovated many of the historic buildings and added a Roofless Church, a granite labyrinth, a welcome center, a Barn Abbey and many other sculptures, paintings and works of art. This makes New Harmony unique among other historic communities.
New Harmony does have a special “energy” about it. The gypsies in the area, who camped along the Wabash, came back over and over because it was a “thin space”. Thin spaces are “spiritually rich” places where the veil between heaven and earth is thinned so that the presence of God is felt. And not only God’s presence but the company of saints triumphant.
Visiting New Harmony with my friends has refreshed my own memories of this amazing place. It has been a sweet visit among old friends who have welcomed me back and made this part of my journey rich and full. It has been a “just” wonderful visit.