Sepia Saturday - Church and Lighthouse Line Up

First Baptist Church (rear range)
What do a church and a lighthouse have in common? The simple answer is, when a church IS a lighthouse. That's right the church you see in the first and last photo is a lighthouse of sorts.

In the first photo you see two dark "holes" in the steeple. One is a speaker for the electronic bell system, the other is a range light. It's an official Coast Guard maintained navigational aid. It's called a "rear range light."

The church's light works in works in tandem with another light called Hospital Point Range Light. That light is the "front range light." Hospital Point is a rather short stubby lighthouse as you can see in the photos. It's light is only 70 feet from the waterline. The church's light is 183 feet from the waterline. Both lights are a "fixed signal" meaning they are lit all night. They do not blink. They are both red signals.

Hospital Point Light (front range)
The purpose of both of these lights is for a skipper navigating into Salem Sound to be able to guide the vessel into a safe channel. When out at sea the skipper would line up both lights, the rear range on top of the front range. When both of those lights are perfectly aligned, there is a safe route into the harbor. You can see by the chart (click to magnify) the heavy dark longer line is the range lined up, the safe route. The route takes the vessels past the treacherous Little Misery and Bakers Islands, and Misery and Bowditch Ledges. They are a nasty place to run aground.
Long black line - Hospital Point Range

Once past those shoals with the range lights still aligned they are in the proper channel. Further on there is another set of range lights to guide them into Salem Harbor. (perhaps another post) Living in the GPS age it's good to know one can still use the "classic" ways of navigation.

At Hospital Point the old keepers cottage is now a residence for the Commandant of the 1st US Coast Guard District based in Boston.

Having a lighthouse in your church steeple offers some great metaphors for your ministry. The First Baptist Church's current campaign slogan is: "We are steeple people being a beacon for the world."

Hospital Point Range Light
From Lynch Park
Photo: CrazyasaCoolFox
First Baptist Church today
Photo: CrazyasaCoolFox


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