The St. Philip the Apostle Church Time Capsule, which contains more than 750 letters from its current parishioners, has been put in its “resting place” until it’s opened again on Nov. 6, 2071.
A burial ceremony was held Tuesday, Nov. 29, outside the church in Franklin. The ceremony was part of the closing of the year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the dedication of the church.
“For 151 years now, the original church of St. Philip the Apostle has stood as a witness to the Gospel to the people of Franklin and Williamson County. In this church, the sacraments have blessed and graced thousands of people,” said St. Philip Pastor Father Ed Steiner during the ceremony. “There are still descendants of some of our original families remaining in our community of faith. Today, we leave behind our history for those who will call this church home 50 years from now. We leave behind letters to those who will stand in our shoes in 50 years.
“The letters contained in the capsule testify to our faith which we live today; testify to our love of the Church; testify to our hope for the future. They are written in English, Spanish, and in other languages used to profess faith in God,” he continued. “We pray that this time capsule will be a witness to our living faith and encourage and inspire all of those who follow.”
Along with the letters, the capsule also contains a list of all currently registered parishioners; a necrology of all those who have been buried from St. Philip; a list of all the parishioners in leadership positions, such as members of the Pastoral Council, Finance Council, and Ministries Council; past news stories about the church; copies of histories of the City of Franklin, including one by St. Philip parishioner Margie Thessin, “Ghosts of Franklin: Tennessee’s Most Haunted Town,” and more.
“It’s just a treasure trove for the people that will follow us,” Father Steiner said. “We’re burying a gift.”
And as preparations were made to bury the time capsule, Father Steiner said, it’s an opportunity to reflect on what it means when we, as Christians, bury the dead.
“When we go to a cemetery, what are we looking at? We’re looking at one of the largest Christian symbols of the world,” Father Steiner said. “Why do we take care then such reverence of the human body? Because it’s been the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we believe in the Second Coming, which we’re celebrating this Advent.
“We believe that Christ is going to come again, so a grave is not a place to be sad,” he said. “A grave is always a place of hope; a hope that Christ will come and make the world bright again.”
To remember this, Father Steiner read a prayer often recited during a Christian burial, while modifying it to fit the time capsule.
“Lord Jesus Christ, by your three days in the tomb, you left a gift for all of us: the hope of the resurrection. And so you have made holy the graves of all who believe in you, and you also gave us the promise of hope and for those who will rise again,” Father Steiner prayed. “Grant that our pledge to the future, our faith in the future, our hope and prayers may remain here in peace until they are awakened in 50 years and that people may come to know our faith and that you are still the resurrection and the life.
“Lord, be close to your servants today as they profess their love for their home of faith and ask your blessings upon those who follow them. Be the companion of those who celebrate and practice their faith in this, your house, in the years to come,” he continued. “May the contents of this time capsule be a testimony to the faith of your people and a witness to your love. May you, Lord, be able to use the history preserved in this capsule to show your continuing presence throughout the ages.
“May our future selves always remember the joy of our celebrations as a consequence of your grace and love. May all things be accomplished through your son, our Lord Jesus Christ,” Father Steiner concluded. “May the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. May the word of Christ and all its richness dwell in us so that whatever we do in word and in work we always do in the name of the Lord. Let us live in peace in the years to come.”
Michelle Smith, a parishioner of St. Philip, said she’s amazed by the time capsule and all that it represents.
“The fact that the parish has been here as long as it has and that it’s as well supported as it is, and the hope that it’ll continue to be here in 50 years, it blows my mind. It’s incredible,” Smith said. “That’s amazing to have that much faith and hope and it’s that supported.
“It’s just kind, great people who have hope for the future,” she said. “It’s amazing because a lot of people are looking at the opposite – the closing of parishes, the combining of parishes – and our parishioners are looking at the growth and future of this parish. My hope is that in 50 years, we’ll have another time capsule for the next 50 years and it just goes on and on.”
The site of the time capsule, the capsule itself and the marking plaque were provided to St. Philip by Williamson Memorial Funeral Homes and Cremation Services in Franklin.
Photos by Katie Peterson