By now most of you know that our Church building caught fire last night (12/28). It was a total loss. Thank God no one was hurt. They do not know the cause of the fire as yet. Dave Rataj and the trustees went right to work so we know that our insurance is more than adequate. We should be able to replace the building completely and we also will have some money for the transition.
More to the point this is a reminder to us that the Church is not a material building, it is a community of people being built by God. Peter said, “…the Lord is good. As you come to him, the Living Stone…you yourselves as living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not been shown mercy, but now you have been shown mercy.”
We remember that Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it,” and “When I am lifted up I will draw all men to myself,” so we have great confidence in the future. We are in the hands of the One who rose, “from the dead and (was) seated at God’s right had in the heavenly realms, far above every rule, authority, power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come and God subjected all things under his feet and gave him as head of all things for the Church, which is His body the full expression of the One who fills everything in every way.”
We remember that he assured us that “All things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose,” and that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
We saw the evidence of his work in creating this spiritual house, for his praise when a group of us met today to pray to begin the work of recovery. He made us a family and like a family we united to support one another in a time of trouble. There were hugs and tears, but always filled with strong reminders that what matters is Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ mission and Jesus’ people. Keith Davio said that this will be a new beginning. Several said that this represents an opportunity to reach out to our community in witness and love. We committed ourselves to making sure those who depend on us in the community are taken care of. Chris Clark and the Missions Board already have plans for starting a new food pantry at the parsonage and they are already looking into other locations for our community dinners. I’m so proud of them. Jen Langley couldn’t sleep last night after the fire; so she made a list of practical details we need to take care of which helped the meeting go very efficiently. We already have plans to turn the parsonage into a temporary office. We are already checking into a couple of locations for worship. We will definitely be meeting Sunday at 10 am, at the Masonic Lodge, 25 Green Street, on the corner of Green and Elm. We should have a place for the entire interim time soon.
Dale and Lori Edwards joined us in an official capacity, but more as family. He told us how proud of you he is. I echo that.
The discussion was full of faith in Christ and a beautiful demonstration of Jesus’ gifts at work. Dale and I even got a chance to witness briefly to the reporter of the Valley News who was there. So you see we are His People and he is working in us to build his Church and draw people to himself.
I guess I don’t have to say, that it is time for all hands on deck. First, we need to pray. We need to grieve together and remember all that Christ did in our beloved building. We need to put our ministry back together and find ways to be the body of Christ in the transition. Let’s remember who we are and Who called us together and what our mission is. I know that some of us have been struggling with participating for a variety of reasons. Our hope is that this tragedy will remind us that we are family and move us to join together to declare the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light; because we really are the people of God.
Your partner in the great work,
PS: I would be remiss not to mention all the offers of support we have gotten. Pastor Steve of the Congregational Church called me to offer a meeting place and whatever support we needed. Pastor Becca from the Methodist did the same. Both of them came by the parsonage to personally greet us. The pastor of West Lebanon Congregational Church came to our meeting with coffee and doughnuts and offered whatever support we needed. We also heard from River Bank Church, and I can’t remember all the rest.