Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge a place for reflection and remembering those gone

RINDGE – The Cathedral of the Pines is a place for contemplation, a peaceful place of gardens in which to remember loved ones, to honor those who have served this country, or to simply rest from the cares of the world. It has an awe-inspiring view of Mount Monadnock behind the altar in the open-air sanctuary, beautifully landscaped grounds, and a 55-foot tall rock bell tower.

But it is more than that. Although it is not officially a church, the cathedral, located in Rindge, provides a stunning setting for weddings, a quiet corner for veterans’ graves, a tree-shaded place to picnic, and a small museum. It is open to people of all faiths or no faith, free of charge from May 1 to Oct. 31.

Designed in 1945 as a memorial to Lt. Sanderson Sloane, who had planned to one day build his home on the hill, it was dedicated in 1946 as a memorial to him and rededicated in 1950 to all war dead. Sloane, an air force officer, died in Germany in 1944. The cathedral now covers more than 200 acres of quiet hillside.

The Altar of the Nation was recognized in 1957 by Congress as a National Memorial to American War Dead. It is made of stones from all 50 states and other significant places. All presidents since Harry Truman have contributed stones to the memorial. The one given by President Eisenhower came from Omaha Beach in Normandy, the site of a landing on D-Day.

The current board of directors would like to make the cathedral more than all that, expand its scope and appeal.

“We want to make people more aware of the cathedral and what it means,” Director Bob Schaulmann said at a recent gathering. “Part of our mission is to remind people they can come here for contemplation,” but we want to go beyond that, to add more cultural dimensions. “Our push is to get young families to our festivals.”

Last year, the cathedral welcomed the Shakespeare Project. They will be back this year from Aug. 1-2 with “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Hamlet.”

Also last year, Monadnock Music presented a concert of classical music, including original music written for the cathedral.

They will be back next year, Schaulmann said, “And this year we’ll have a bluegrass festival on July 19.”

Bluegrass in the Pines will feature at least four bands, food and family activities. Tickets are $30, $25 in advance, and children younger than 6 are free.

The cathedral has just opened the beginning of a trail system, which will eventually connect with other area trails. On Sept. 27, they will hold the inaugural 10K run with a 5K run-walk through the woods and fields surrounding the cathedral. The event will include food, music and fun, Schaulmann said. Registration is $35 on the day, $28 in advance.

The trail is open to the public to walk and enjoy. Leashed dogs are welcome and plastic bags are provided at several points to pick up droppings. Otherwise, only service dogs are allowed in the cathedral.

Most weekends feature a special or annual service by organizations such as Odd Fellows and the Daughters of the American Revolution. The New England Grange service will be held on June 22.

“There are very few veterans of World War II left,” Schaulmann said, “and the Korean War veterans are getting old. The Vietnam veterans are different, and we want them here, too. We recognize we have a real jewel here.”

The Cathedral of the Pines, located at 10 Hale Hill Road, is “Dedicated to the love of God and the Brotherhood of Man, all faiths, one family, one Earth.” Its mission is to honor all Americans who serve the nation. In search of peace, it is open to the public as a place of spiritual, cultural and environmental appreciation. It is privately funded, with no government money.

For information concerning directions to the site, upcoming services, scheduling weddings or other events, call 899-3300, or on the web at www.cathedralofthepines.org.