[Author’s note: this post is less health focused and more reflective on the life of our churches]
This past weekend was a whirl wind. The church across the street, Walhalla Presbyterian Church, suffered extensive damage from a fire Saturday. The fire started a little before 10:00am and took 9 fire crews to get it under control. In any town this is a big deal, in small town Walhalla, SC…it was huge. Here is a link to a local news agency that covered the story. To the people in the church I serve, it was like déjà vu all over again…except this time we were on the other side of the street. In July 2009, members of St. Luke stood across the street in the Presbyterian Church’s parking lot, watching our sanctuary and education building burn. Here is a link to that story.
On Saturday, we stood together with members from the Presbyterian Church, community leaders, and curious onlookers as another house of worship burned and smoked.
Within a half hour, St. Luke members were showing up in numbers, but they weren’t there to watch. They were there to love and to serve. They came with sandwich trays and bottled waters and ice. They immediately sprang into action and we opened our church to the Site Coordinators, EMS and other agencies to come in out of the heat, rest, and refuel. When Red Cross arrived, they were surprised to see aid stations already in place. And as more and more members of WPC arrived, we offered air conditioned space for them to gather and pray. Why am I bragging you may ask? I am not. I was amazed and humbled by the response of the people I pastor. But do you know what surprised me the most?
Every news agency or reported asked us, “Why are you doing this?” Perhaps I am too naïve but I didn’t have a good answer. All I could think was, “Aren’t we the church?!? Why wouldn’t we do this?!?”
Yesterday both of our churches worshiped together. We shared stories, prayers, and we sang the songs of our faith. St. Luke offered no pithy saying or self-righteous advice. We read through Ezra 3:10-13; sometimes we wept together and other times we laughed and celebrated new possibilities. We worshiped. We just stood with our brothers and sisters in worship to say we love you and you are not alone. Again the questions came from the news, “Why?” … and all I could think was, “why not?”
Have we come so far that we no longer expect churches to be there for each other in the darkest of times? Jesus’ last prayer for us was that we might be unified in love and that would be our witness to the world. And yet when we actually stand unified, the world is surprised as if they have never seen us do this before…that breaks my heart. Are they surprised because it happens so rarely?
Perhaps that is exactly why Jesus prayed that for us because our willingness to stand together is what keeps us from dying alone.
Perhaps some of us are dying alone because we’re too proud to accept the love and support of another…
What struggle do you have in your life that you need help with? What experience have you gone through that you could channel to walk through it with someone else? How will you be the church this week?