In 1986, calls were made to the leadership of Cloud’s Bend United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee. It was truly a devastating day in their history. That snowy day, a few young men gained access to the church building. They piled the church pews in the corner and lit them on fire. The blaze changed the life of that church forever as the decades old historic church building was completely destroyed in just a few hours.
One of the hardest things humans deal with is change. It amazes me how a simple fall or injury can instantly change one’s life. One tackle can end the career of a professional football player. A spark can cause a blaze that can destroy a centuries old edifice.
What we deem as normal truly is never normal as we are constantly in an evolving situation and world. To believe that things are not changing is to falsely take heart in an illusion. One of the key things that pastoral ministry has taught me is that times of transition and change are often some of the toughest yet most fruitful times of our lives. Much of the fruitfulness depends on how we embrace the change we are facing.
In the midst of an evolving world and constant change, there is one thing that we can place our hope and trust in that never changes. Biblical authors quote Jesus again and again assuring us that he is always with us desiring to be a constant companion and source of comfort and hope in the midst of our most trying moments.
Confronting the change the fire brought was amazingly hard for the people of Cloud’s Bend. But, they trusted God would carry them forward and never forsake them. It raises the question; will we be so bold to trust God when change comes our way? Will we cling to God’s unchanging hand that is always extended toward us? Will we only mourn our loss or will we allow God the space, in the midst of our transition, to make something beautiful from it?
When I was appointed the pastor of Cloud’s Bend United Methodist Church in 2009, I walked into a modern building with beautiful skylights. The once burnt pews had been transformed into chandeliers adorning the sanctuary. Amazingly, some folks still talked about missing the outhouse they used to have in 1986. Yet, no longer did they have the heating and cooling problems they once had.
It was in that church that they started training a new minister and I performed my first adult and infant baptisms. New life sprang forth from the ashes of 1986. For that I will forever give God thanks as God made something beautiful out of it for my life and the lives of others. My prayer is that we may we trust God to always hold us and know, if we will allow it, beautiful things can come from change that surrounds our lives.