When Roy Spratley opened his barbershop at 707 N. Sheppard St. almost 25 years ago, he brought with him a small ceramic figurine of a minister. Black, bearded, turquoise tie peering from beneath black robes. The minister holds a Bible to his chest.
Spratley put the figure on his desk. There it sat, amid the newspapers and magazines and whatnot until about 10 years later when a customer, perhaps believing all ministers require a flock, gave Spratley a second ceramic figurine.
It could have been a choir member or a churchgoer sitting in a pew or an angel. "I don't remember, but then my clients started bringing me figures for Christmas, for my birthday, 'Look, I saw this and thought of you, Roy.'"
The figures joined the minister. Soon enough, not through any design of his own, the barber had a small church upon his desk. When the church grew too big, Spratley moved it to the window where, over time, row after row of ceramic pews filled with parishioners in their Sunday best: elderly grandmothers in ribboned hats, men, sharp in black suits, a woman in pearls, three older gentlemen, dapper in white and gray. An old man rests his hat upon his knee; a stout woman dozes. A woman wipes the cheek of a young boy. Multiple choirs sing. Multiple preachers preach. Angels watch over them all.
As it happened, Spratley became an ordained minister about five years ago. He is an assistant pastor at Mount Poole Baptist Church in Dinwiddie County. He also plays bass guitar and his wife sings in the choir.
"If I try to run away from church, here it is," he says, laughing and gesturing toward the figurines. "This fits in with who I am and who I try to be. ... I can't say which one is my favorite, though I am partial to the ministers. They're all important, the choir, the deacons, the people — it's how it all comes together."
Spratley sets off the display with Christmas lights, to which he is also partial. "You should see his house at Christmas," a client says. How many lights? "Oh, probably around 50,000 this year," Spratley says.
The church stays in the window year round and passersby are always stopping to study it. Spratley lets them come inside for pictures if they'd like and a little conversation ensues and this, too, the barber sees as a blessing.
He is not a man given to flights of fancy — Christmas lights aside — but if he sits awhile, Spratley can almost hear the preachers preaching and the choirs singing and he might, just might, sing along.