I just got home from two weeks in Ocean Pines, Maryland, about five miles from the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a pretty neighborhood of cottages and boat docks and tall pines, where the most popular pastime among the natives appears to be dog-walking. (During my visit, I also discovered two magical words: Harris Teeter. More on that later.) The trip was a welcome and much-needed change of pace.
Across the bay, in Ocean City — beyond the boardwalk and the frozen custard stands and the screams of teenagers being hurled upside down on carnival rides — lies a stretch of sand that almost seems out of place. The atmosphere there is usually hushed. There’s always a crowd gathered, in awe. Some people will be taking pictures. Others will sit transfixed for several long minutes, just staring at the beach.
What they’re staring at are an improbable series of sculptures that have become local landmarks (sandmarks?). They’re depictions of bible scenes, created by local artist Randy Hofman. It’s not unusual to find an evangelist along the boardwalk, explaining their significance and doing his part to save a soul or two. I remember first seeing versions of these creations over 25 years ago, and was surprised, and moved, to see that they’re still there — altered, no doubt, and rebuilt from season to season. But they remain a seaside mainstay.
And so it is that a venerable and timeless tradition of preaching on the seashore — one that began two thousand years ago — is carried on.
Take a look.