I had planned out a blog entry to write today, all about the wonderful day Jess and Kim and I had at the French Food Festival yesterday. Took a lot of pics and everything. But that post will need to wait. Today I am dwelling on a different topic.
We all take things for granted. It is our nature to focus on things that have changed, not things that are the same over and over again. That probably is hardwired into us since the days when our ancestors watched the distant horizon for storms, and the ground for signs of possible food, and the nearby brush for the slightest movement of a predator. But in following this instinct, we can fail to appreciate the tremendous things that are in our everyday lives. Things that supposedly will always be there. And sometimes it turns out they just aren’t any more.
We arrived at church this morning and after hugs in the hallway with folks we haven’t seen in days, we took our usual seats – right side, row 10, next to the aisle. Creatures of habit, we. And we have been at St. Martin’s long enough that usually no one is in “our” seats. We sang and said the traditional prayers from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, listened to the bible readings and the sermon. Today’s sermon was being vigilant and observant of the needs of those around us. Then we had shared The Peace and sat to listen to morning announcements. It was then that we learned that there had been a small fire at the church. Most everyone looked shocked and concerned as Father Lee explained that apparently someone had been smoking a homemade marijuana water pipe in the breezeway that separates our sanctuary from the administration building/fellowship hall, and had apparently dropped a burning something-or-other along with the water pipe just outside of the sanctuary door. Father Lee assured everyone that steps were being taken – additional foot patrols by the police, motion cameras – and that the damage would be taken care of after our vestry has decided on a course of action. Apparently, this was the second time in a week that drug paraphernalia had been found at our church doors. A church in the woods, with many tuckaway areas away from the road and the parking lot, must be very convenient for folks who need time and space away from prying eyes.
Leaving the church after services, looking just a few feet from the door, the damage was obvious to see – a 6x6 column supporting the breezeway was missing the bottom 9 inches or so with char up the column and a 4 foot square area of mulch in cinders around it. Kim and I had walked by it on the way in to church and had never noticed it. I guess we really needed that sermon on being more observant!
Looking at the damage, I realized how hot the fire must have been to actually burn away a 6x6 treated wooden column. And I looked at the wooden breezeway it supported, and thought about the sanctuary with its wooden ceiling, just 8 feet from the column. And I realized just how close this whole place was to being gone. What would it have taken for the fire to spread to the breezeway roof and then to the church, another 30 minutes? 15? 5? If the fire department had not been alerted when they were, this could have been a terrible fire.
All day my mind has returned to that image of the dangling post. And I realize just how blessed we are. We did not lose our church building. Yes, I realize that even if the fire had consumed it our church is not made up of a building but of its people and the church would have stayed strong. But that does not diminish the turmoil that would have occurred. St. Martin’s has become the focal point of our Christian life. It is not essential to our faith but it is central to our expression of that faith. And we were given a subtle reminder that not all things we take for granted will be there forever, that we need to appreciate the gifts we have before us. And that lesson requires no sermon.
May God continue to bless our church. And may He protect and bless the persons whose choices resulted in this small fire.