I’m not sure I’d say they live in far away places, but the likelihood of us ever meeting in person is probably minimal. In terms of a way to contact them personally, apart from responding to a blog they’ve posted on WordPress, I’m at a loss. I’ve read a number of stories contributed by a half a dozen or so individuals who seemingly march to the beat of the same drum that resonates within my spirit. What’s true for me apparently is true for them. I know that from the back and forth confirmation through a “like button” or a written comment associated with a posting.
You’re probably tempted to think it is a quid pro quo approach, tit-for-tat, or I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine mindset, but it is not. I don’t know how to explain it other than that the content and subject matter perks an interest drawing us toward some kind of solidarity that is unexplainable.
Yesterday, I looked through a posting of pictures of tombstones representing the final resting place for a number of the author’s wife’s family. With the picture of each tombstone, photos from yester-year along with a brief synopsis of the person’s life were included. How could I not be drawn to it?
If you could see the number of old extended family pictures I have on display in our home, you’d understand. I value the concept of “gone but not forgotten”. Many of the old pictures on display in our home are of family members I never knew. However, my grandmother valued the pictures because she valued the people. Before her death, she passed them on to me.
Over the past several months there have been several times that I’ve wanted to reach out to a writer and personally thank them or offer a private word regarding their pilgrimage and life experiences. Sometimes what they’ve shared is so profound that it unmistakably speaks to my heart.
One example is a mother’s posting related to the grief and agony she experienced associated to her son’s accidental death from a drug overdose. In response, she became an advocate for providing education and support to shield others from the same heartache she’d experienced. She also shared how she worked through the anger she initially harbored toward her son’s friend for introducing him to drugs. In the process, her Christian instincts eventually took control and she recognized that what the young man most needed was love and a sense of lasting hope. How could she live with herself if she denied him those things?
In response to my posting last week entitled “Life Threatening Circumstances” that highlighted the number of churches for whom an autopsy is pending, one reader/writer thoughtfully responded: “Perhaps faith itself has been lost. The conflicts over hymns and other unimportant items are just a symptom of no longer believing in God but a need to socialize once a week. Where I live one church was made into a recording studio, one is now a bar, and several remain vacant now for years with no one to buy them. We still have the same population people just lost their faith. Whose fault is that?”
I was captivated by the man’s response. How would you negotiate the void in your personal life if your church vanished? Can you imagine explaining to your children why the churches are closed or re-purposed for activities other than their original intent?
I was fascinated with the man’s response, but I was absolutely hooked by his question. He asked: “Whose fault is that?” It is a logical, cause and effect, kind of inquiry. In addition, it is a question that deserves an answer. Sadly, my response was mostly of an expression of concern more than a definitive answer.
I replied: “What an unfortunate and sad set of circumstances. I am sorry for your community and for the absence of folks coming together collectively to glorify and worship God. Much has been lost in the process and that hurts my heart. God’s call on our lives ought to orchestrate an environment that makes men brothers. I can’t answer the question “Whose fault is it? ” Oftentimes our selfish need to control gets in the way of our following. Thanks for sharing the story of your community”.
Last night, I found another tough question related to the environment of fear I described in my blog entitled: “Felt Safety”. The same author made an observation associated to churches. “It is all in God’s hands. In God’s many houses you will find locked doors. I remember a time when I could walk into a house of God at almost any time of day and sit and think and even pray. I recall (well over 50 years ago) on a picnic with my parents driving on a back country road seeing a church with an outside shrine next to it. We were able to go into the church and look around with no other people there”.
“Two weeks ago on a trip to a fall festival we noticed a beautiful church in a town on a high hill with a cemetery next to it. We drove up to the church that had flower gardens all around it and a well kept up old cemetery along one side. However the church was closed and locked up, less than one hour after they had had a Mass (service) there. What does this mean? I have no idea, but I do not think it is for the best. Do you?
I opted to punt in regard to his question of me asking if I thought locked doors on churches were for the best. I answered simply: “Thanks for your very thoughtful response and sharing your insight regarding locked churches. What you shared of the picturesque church where you found locked doors is also true of the church where I attend”.
“Years ago the doors were left unlocked and anyone could find sanctuary inside at the time of there Unfortunately the times have changed. The lack of respectfulness along with property destruction and/or theft are variables churches attempt to preclude by keeping their doors locked. Even at that, we’ve incurred theft of electronic equipment. The other looming issue is liability related to the necessity of ensuring safety for anyone on the premises”.
Almost as an afterthought I wrote: “I’ve met a man whose wife was murdered when she sought sanctuary inside a church to pray and reflect”. I did not share with the man that the cause of death was subsequently determined to be the blow to the back of her head from an ice pick. She reportedly was also sexually assaulted. The perpetrator of the crime was never discovered. Forty plus years later, it continues to be a mystery. I guess I shared all that to say, “I think a premium has to be given to ensuring safety, even if that means keeping the church locked. Ours is a fallen world.
All My Best!