A Cross of Iron Nails

A Cross of Iron Nails

For sixteen years St. Andrew’s, Portland member Walt Myers kept a coffee can of old square iron nails, though he is the first to admit that there was no real reason to hold onto them. The nails spent more than a century securing the floorboards beneath the altar of the original St. Andrew’s Church, built in 1895. A renovation in 2000 necessitated removing the original floorboards to transform the building into a community space now called Geiser Hall, but something about the nails grabbed Walt’s attention and earned them a space in storage.

One day Walt happened to mention the nails to fellow St. Andrew’s parishioner Dianne Delaney. Dianne immediately remembered a visit to Coventry Cathedral in England, which has the Charred Cross, made of burned wooden beams, and the Cross of Nails, made of nails from a roof truss. Both of these items were created from the rubble after the cathedral was bombed during World War II, and are signs of hope, peace, and reconciliation. She reflects, “I was transformed by seeing the crosses made from the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, and this inspired us to take a piece of our history and transform it.”

This idea to turn the square iron nails into crosses was the first of what Dianne terms “God winks” – moments when she is paying attention and feels the nudges of the Holy Spirit. Another of these incidents occurred when she engaged a visitor during a Sunday morning mass and learned he was a priest on sabbatical from a church in England. He said, “We make nail crosses all the time,” and suggested using copper wire as a fastener. “Our Anglican community is alive and well all over the world,” Dianne mused. She experienced yet another of these occasions when describing the cross of iron nails to a Fred Meyer Jewelry employee, who observed that the crosses were just the right size to fit in some unneeded jewelry boxes the store had, and offered to give them to Dianne.

A woman with short gray hair, glasses, and a turqoise scarf unties a white ribbon from a small turqoise box in front of a table covered with small turqoise boxesEverything came together just in time for Convention, and Dianne, in her trademark turquoise scarf, dove right in to setting up the table in the exhibit hall. As someone relatively new to the Diocese of Oregon, she enthuses, “Convention was such an enjoyable time to meet people. I must have talked to over 50 people; it was terrific!” Additionally, so many crosses sold that she returned home with empty boxes, orders for more crosses, and over $1,500, all of which will support the Hereford House Episcopal Food Pantry that operates in Geiser Hall.

Walt muses about the interesting life cycle of the nails. “The crosses are a two-fold idea: a good memorial and reminder of our history, and also a way of supporting the food pantry, which is our major community outreach now.” The square iron nails first upheld the physical structure of old St. Andrew’s, which allowed people to be gathered in for worship. Now, their transformation and the sales proceeds enable the congregation to continue spreading the love of Christ out to their neighbors. As the parish looks forward to celebrating their 125th anniversary in 2020, the nails have become a modern day parable encouraging the people of St. Andrew’s to have patience and faith in God’s redemptive and creative power while paying attention to the opportunities to do justice, love mercy and walk with God in their neighborhood.