by: Staci Stallings (August 2007)
Our church burned down. It’s now going on five months since we’ve been having services in our parish gym. The fire took out the main worship space, and the water to put out the fire damaged the gathering area. Thankfully the fire department battled valiantly, and their efforts saved the classroom area, kitchen, and gym.
Since then, we’ve been having Sunday services in the gym. Now in the five months that we’ve been in the gym, there have had to be some dramatic changes. The wood floor is gone—another victim of water damage. Large red runners line the aisles on the concrete floor, chairs stand in for pews, and a donated piano and organ have replaced the million dollar pipe organ in the old church.
But there are other things that aren’t quite so church-y about the space. For example, there are basketball goals on either side, hanging down just over the congregation’s heads. Because there are only chairs, there are no kneelers. And the swatch of seating in the very back is simply the old bleachers. Noisy things that were meant for a gym—not a worship space.
They’ve brought in candles, lecterns, a baptismal font, an altar, and even the tabernacle. It’s really quite remarkable that a gym can look so worshipful. However, as I looked out across it tonight, I couldn’t help but think not only of the old church now being torn down but of the new worship space that will be built in the coming months.
I thought about the sound system which will be more reliable because it will be designed for the space rather than rigged to make it work during a frantic, tear-filled week. I thought about the pews with actual kneelers so even the non-diehard church-goers can once again kneel during the consecration. As I stood there in the bleachers and looked out across the heads of the congregation, it struck me that yes, we are here in this strange dichotomy of spaces, worshipping, praising, and making the best of a bad situation.
The Bible verse, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19) came to me. I saw that spread before me was a metaphor of exactly what Christ was talking about. We are in the world but not of the world—just like we’re in the gym for now, but it’s not where we’re destined to be. This is temporary. There will be a day in the future that we will trade in those basketball goals and bleachers for real pews and carpet and maybe even a new pipe organ.
In the same way one day we will trade in this life full of trials and suffering for a new life in God’s Heaven where every tear will be wiped away, where He will trade liberty for the bonds of captives, beauty for ashes, heartache for eternal glory. Yes, it’s not just our church. We’re all going to a better place… just you wait and see!
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