Clergy and Lay Leaders
We are currently in a period of transition and a search for our next Rector. We prayerfully await our next full time Priest. Meanwhile we are blessed to welcome The Rev. Robert Lundquist as our interim Rector.
Please pray for the Church and the Discernment Committee. Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for this parish family. Guide us in our discernment that with thankful hearts we may seek and call our next rector in accordance with your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Please pray for our Church leadership
Rev. Robert Lundquist email@example.com
Church Office 828.625.9244
Tom Scott Sr. Warden 813.477.5430
Patti Glassen Jr. Warden
JoAnne Ellingson Treasurer 625.9637
Carlann Scherping Clerk of Vestry
It was in 1897 that the Sisters of the Transfiguration first arrived here. In 1906, they opened a school for local children which was discontinued when a public school in Bat Cave was opened. The Sisters offered their chapel-school for use as a mission church. Land was purchased where Hickory Nut Creek joins the Broad River and the building was moved to that location. From 1906 until 1911, the Rev. Reginald Wilcox from St. James in Hendersonville was the faithful missioner who served this area. Other clergy whose names appear in early records which date from 1915, include The Right Reverend Paul Clement Matthews, Bishop, and the Rev. Messrs. F. D. Lobdell, E. E. Knight, James B. Sill and H. Cary-Elwes.
First church after being moved from the Sisters’ property, 1915
A nearby cottage was leased for a Mission House and soon it was occupied by two Mission workers, the Misses Blanche and Mary Ellen Harris, who organized and superintended the Sunday school and cared for the sick and needy in the Gorge.
In 1915, the Western Missionary District of Asheville became the Diocese of Western North Carolina. The Sisters soon gave their church building to the newly formed Diocese of Western North Carolina.
The church building was spared the flood of 1916, but the Mission House was swept away. The Rev. Ira Swanman and his mother lived in the Mission House at that time, and he was the first resident Missioner.
Caretaker’s house after the 1916 flood
In 1922, Bishop Matthews and his wife, Elsie Procter Matthews sponsored our first community nursing program. The women involved worked with the sick and endeared themselves to the people of the area. A bronze bas relief plaque inside the Church, dedicated to Bishop Matthews and his wife, was sculpted by the renowned artist Joy Buba, who also did the bust of Pope John Paul II in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.
The Rev. Herbert Cary-Elwes was appointed as the first Priest-in -Charge in 1923. Regular services were held every Sunday, except when a bad road or weather prevented them. Repairs were made to the building and new pews were installed.
Rev. F. A. Saylor, who had been Rector of St. Andrews Church in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico for twenty-eight years, was called to this church and began his duties on August 1, 1939. He aroused the interest of the congregation and led them in a program to remodel the church building. In 1941, the repairs and remodeling were finished, and the congregation had grown.
In May of 1945 the Church was consumed by fire. The fire originated in a nearby dwelling and spread quickly to the church. .Father Saylor was there and before the church caught fire, he was able to remove the altar, the communion rail and the baptismal font.
Bishop and Mrs. Matthews deeded a tract of land for a church site and rectory, and were instrumental in financing its construction. Dr. Murray Washburn made a model for the new church, which was used as the blueprint.
In 1946 the Easter Sunrise Service and Holy Communion were held at the new site. Sister Beatrice Martha, C. T., turned the first spade of earth in the groundbreaking ceremony. The first service was held in the church on August 6, 1947. Father Saylor and volunteers from the congregation and community had worked long hours to complete the building.
Saved from the burning church and in place in the new building was the carved walnut altar, brought by Bishop Matthews from St. Johns Church in Omaha. Also saved from the old church were the wrought iron lights, altar brasses and the communion rail. The carved rood beam, "The Master Is Come And Calleth For Thee" is the work of Artmis Skevakis. It is a replica of one which Sister Clara Elizabeth carved and gave in memory of Mother Eva Mary in the old Church of the Transfiguration.
Interior of the original church building
Consecration of the Church was held September 28, 1947, Bishop Matthews and Bishop Colmore (retired) of Puerto Rico officiating. Most of the clergy in the Western North Carolina Diocese were in procession.
The church pews built by Carl Freeman, and his son Harvey, the cross made and placed on top of the rood beam by Lonnie Hill, the work of the late Fate Heydock, Dick Riddick, Don Freeman, and many others, symbolize the dedication and effort of the Church of the Transfiguration.
Father Saylor retired in 1948 and Miss Aileen Cronshey came as a Mission worker to the District. The Rev. Rhett Winters, Jr. served from 1949-1951; the Rev. James Hindle, 1953-1956; the Rev. William Potts, 1959-1960; the Rev. David Kirkpatrick, 1960-1963; the Rev. Fred Herlong, under whom the Mission became a parish, 1964-1967; the Rev. Charles V. Covell, under whom a new Parish Hall wing was added, 1967-1974; the Rev. John Palmer, 1974-1978; the Rev. Gerald Shaw, 1979-1983; the Rev. James Hindle served the church again from 1984 until his retirement at the end of 1992. The Rev. Melvin Bridge followed Fr. Hindle. In 1997, the Rev. Mickey Mugan came to Transfiguration and was with us until 2012 and he was followed in 2014 by The Rev. Wes Shields who remained with us until 2021. At this writing, we are in the transitional period and look forward to welcoming our next Rector.
Father Frank A. Saylor
1939 - 1948
The Icon of the Transfiguration
By Veryle Lynn Cox
A small group approached the altar on a Saturday night in August, carrying with them old boards, an old fair linen from the altar, drawings, a set of natural color pigments, and packets of rabbit skin glue, whiting and marble dust. After laying the articles at the foot of the altar, prayers were offered for the journey about to be undertaken—to write an icon of the Transfiguration. The date-- August 6, 2005, the Feast of the Transfiguration. The church—The Church of the Transfiguration, Bat Cave, North Carolina. In exactly one year, this small mountain church would celebrate its centennial.
The poplar boards, (the traditional wood of icons), had already served a long life as a shelf in a parishioner’s workshop. They were passed on to a fellow parishioner who joined the boards and inset braces on the back. An arched frame was fastened to the front. Representing the Tree of Life, the woodgrain is vertical.
Rabbit skin glue, cooked in a double boiler, was painted on the front of the board to soak into the wood and provide an adhesive surface.
In the 1980’s, when the altar in this small Episcopal church was moved away from the wall, the narrow fair linens used on the altar during the Eucharist were retired. One of these linens was soaked in warm rabbit skin glue and carefully stretched and smoothed to cover the front and sides of the board forming the “shroud.” When dried, it tightened to bind the board together for centuries.
To provide a smooth white surface on which to paint, rabbit skin glue, powdered whiting and marble dust were cooked together in a double boiler. After cooling in a flat container, the resulting white gelatin was scraped onto the shroud. Eighteen layers later after careful wet sanding the board resembled pure white marble. This created a traditional gesso surface which would not only absorb the paint, but it would also reflect light through the twelve layers of paint that would follow.
“The end is in the beginning”, writes T. S. Eliot. The pure white surface represents the void out of which the world was created. It also represents purity and the potential for life. Pure white is the beginning of the icon, and it also is the end.
Transferred onto the white surface, the images are then incised or scratched into the gesso. Later, under layers of paint, the design will not be lost.
Many hands have prayerfully worked on the icon—in fact, prayer has been layered at every stage. The Episcopal Bishop of Western North Carolina, Porter Taylor, traced the image of Christ. Our rector, Reverend Mickey Mugan, traced the image of Moses. Our Rector Emeritus, Reverend James Hindle, was ready to trace the image of Elijah when he noted the disciple James. “He’s my namesake,” said Father Jim, and he chose to trace him.
North Carolina red clay dug near the artist’s home and mixed with hide glue was used to paint clay on the edges of the icon. Clay is the dust from which God formed man. It also represents the Old Testament.
Many parishioners prayed the Iconographer’s Prayer and painted clay on the edge of the icon. The icon was taken to shut-ins, to the hospital and to nursing homes so that many could call it their own.
It was also taken to the Convent of the Transfiguration in Glendale, Ohio, so that the Episcopal Community of the Sisters of the Transfiguration, could work on it. In 1897, the year before the Community was established, the foundress Eva Matthews along with her brother Bishop Matthews, came into Hickory Nut Gorge to purchase property for a retreat house. As a result of the presence of the Sisters in the Valley, the Church of the Transfiguration was founded as a mission in 1906.
As the red clay was applied over several months, the writing of the icon continued. An icon is said to be prayerfully “written”, not painted, because the process as well as the end result is the holy made visible. It is the visual study of God, or theology.
Several layers of fine red gilder’s clay, applied to the white gesso then polished, formed the foundation for the five layers of gold leaf, which was then burnished with an agate.
In ancient times, artists mixed natural earth with egg yolk to make paint. Icons written centuries ago still have fresh color, thanks to egg tempera. The yolk, preferably from a free range chicken, is removed from the yolk sack, mixed with 3 parts water and a touch of vinegar to inhibit spoilage, and is ready for natural pigments to be mixed into it. The five eggs for this icon come from a friend’s chickens, all with the name of Gertrude.
Dark colors are puddled so that pigments may settle naturally from the first layer of color, known as Chaos. The iconographer’s brush hovers over the dark puddle as the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters of the earth during Creation.
Cosmos is the next step in which dark lines outline the forms organizing the Chaos.
Lighter colors define shapes, and through washes which veil the colors and more layers of paint which redefine shapes, up to twelve layers of paint, veils, and lines bring the icon from darkness to light.
In Orthodox churches and family homes, icons are caressed, kissed, gently handled and processed on holy days; and the purpose of the metal frame, or “oklad” is to protect the icon. Quotations from the gospel of Matthew on the Transfiguration are raised from the surface by a technique called repousse’, where the design is pushed forward from the back side of the metal, then the design is refined on the front side.
“Jesus took with him Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. A voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my son whom I love, listen to him!” (Matthew 17: 1-5)
Four different prototypes of the icon of the Transfiguration were used to create this design. All have the same elements: Jesus, Elijah, Moses, Peter, John and James, the high mountain, the mandorla around Jesus to show Eternity, the Earthly realm, and the Heavenly realm. Three desert bushes were replaced by three rhododendron bushes, significant to our area of North Carolina. The cave represents Golgotha, also shown in icons of the Crucifixion.
Peter turns to Jesus and offers to build shelters for Him, Elijah and Moses. John, traditionally shown without a beard because of his youth, peeks between his fingers at the glowing sight before his eyes. James tumbles backwards down the mountain and loses his sandal: he also peers between his hands at the incredible sight. The voice of God comes over them as a cloud.
The mountains appear to have shingles on them. The symbolism is that even the mountains bow before God.
On the oklad’s upper left corner are Jesus and the three disciples going up the mountain, and on the right corner they are shown coming down the mountain. Jesus not only led them up the mountain to pray, he also led them back down again, to a life of action. The Jerusalem cross in the lower corners is the emblem of the Sisters of the Transfiguration and of our parish church. The large cross in the center represents the beginning of the church in Jerusalem, and the four smaller crosses are “the four corners of the earth,” to which the Lord sends us as his disciples.
“The end is in the beginning.” The icon began with a pure white surface. The very last stroke of paint is the pure white next to the irises in the eyes of the six figures. This is called the Ojivsky, or God Knowledge.
Over eighty souls have left their mark on the icon. It took over 200 hours to finish it, but it cannot be measured by numbers. God has used many hands to create it and it belongs to all.