The church loomed before her like some aged monument preserving the memory of its founders. Clutching vines of ivy encrusted the walls and scaled the towering steeple, as if to hold the bricks in place and keep them from crumbling. Like sentinels, a pair of massive, gnarled oaks guarded the entrance.
As Effie took the key out of her pocket, she recalled Mrs. Baldwin saying, “I hope you’re not superstitious. Providence is one of the oldest churches in Fairfax County. It predates the Civil War. Some say it’s haunted. Can you imagine calling a church haunted?”
Timidly she unlocked the door and peered into the sanctuary, deluged with light from stained glass Palladian windows. Each was part of a series depicting the life of Christ from the Annunciation to the Resurrection. She walked down the center aisle, carpeted in red, towards the cross that loomed over the choir loft and dropped to her knees at the altar. Surrounded by all the trappings of spirituality, she prayed and pictured the throne of God, the “sea of glass,” the cherubim, and “the four and twenty elders” clothed in white.
But the vision was short-lived. Like a clap of thunder, the specter of doubt jarred her with a question: What if her circumstances were accidental, not providential? What if coming to Fairfax was a mistake? She waved the notion aside and seated herself at the organ.
A careful examination of the instrument found it nearly identical to the one she’d practiced her lessons on in Columbus. “What harm is there in playing the organ?” she asked aloud. Her words hung in the air, unanswered, undisputed, and soon “Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” resounded throughout the sanctuary.
She poured herself into the composition, mindless of time and place, until a rapping sound arrested her attention. Her eyes scanned the church before resting upon a stained glass window depicting the Crucifixion. Like a metronome, a branch was tapping the pane.
As she resumed playing, the melancholy fugue fired her imagination, bringing “The Phantom of the Opera” to mind. A mental picture of Lon Chaney lurking behind one of the pews prompted the feeling that someone was watching her. To counter the thought, she abandoned the organ for the piano and played a hardy rendition of “Oh Happy Day.” But halfway through the song, a scraping sound sliced the air, immobilizing her fingers.
Excerpt from THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER (pages 7 and 8).
St. Francis Methodist, Mobile, AL
When I started writing THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER, I wanted to give the story a familiar setting with historical landmarks. I chose the City of Fairfax, one of my favorite stomping grounds. Most of the landmarks mentioned in the novel are real, but Providence United Methodist Church is fictional.
The name “Providence” is not a coincidence. Not only does it mean God’s will, but prior to 1859, the City of Fairfax was known as the village of Providence.
My description of Providence Methodist was partly inspired by the architecture of Berryman United Methodist in Richmond. Truro Anglican Church in the heart of the City of Fairfax influenced me also.