On a crisp winter evening, with the stars near enough to grab, The Village Blacksmith Shoppe at Magnalia opened its doors for a gathering for the very first time.
Named in honor of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem of the same name, which became a kind of anthem for the character and work ethic of early Americans, The Village Blacksmith Shoppe is a circa 1841 recreation of the very kind of Smithy Longfellow might have had in mind. Anchored by an 1840 Peter Wright anvil and a period vice grips and bellows, the details inside and out beckon one to travel back in time:
And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing floor.
The Village Blacksmith Shoppe is operated by day by US Army special ops veteran Matt Bray. Matt was blessed by blacksmithing – by being at “God’s anvil” – as he worked through the PTSD he brought home with him from service in Afghanistan. Indeed, as Lloyd Alexander wrote:
Life’s a forge! Yes, and hammer and anvil, too! You’ll be roasted, smelted, and pounded, and you’ll scarce know what’s happening to you. But stand boldly to it! Metal’s worthless till it’s shaped and tempered!
Matt played that blessing forward by creating a blacksmithing ministry to serve veterans with PTSD in North Carolina and surrounding states. He (and his wife!) have long wanted a “home base” for this ministry other than their garage. And now, in the Lord’s providence, he has it!
The first reception at the Smithy was a celebration of the release of a book of poems called Falling Forward, written by local poetess Sarah Cornelius.
In addition to a stirring reading and book signing conversations with Sarah, we had a surprise visit from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow himself! Mr. Longfellow (actor Daniel Stargel) shared poetry and made merry with company while staying in period. He then ended the evening with a moving blessing and charge to Sarah, with words from the great poet like these:
God sent His singers upon earth
with songs of sadness and mirth,
That they might touch the hearts of men
and bring them back to heaven again.
The Village Blacksmith Shoppe has been built with four purposes in mind: (1) to create a place of soul care, mentorship and ministry for veterans in our community through blacksmithing; (2) to create a unique place for small group gatherings, “Anvil Conversations,” and receptions; (3) to create an unforgettable lodging experience for overnight guests; and (4) to create a place that symbolizes the important role and voice of artists in our communities.
We’re thanking God for a treasured consecration of this new-yet-old Smithy in the Village at Magnalia. Thanks to all whose generosity, hard work and inspiration have helped bring The Village Blacksmith Shoppe to life!
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