05 December 2008


Somewhere around 2:15 p.m. yesterday, a fire broke out in the sanctuary at Immanuel.

I couldn't blog yesterday.
I wanted so much to share.

But I couldn't even bring myself to write those first 13 words.

I didn't want to believe it was true. I didn't want it to be real.
It was beyond real.
It was horrible.

When the very long afternoon had turned to night and I finally ventured home, my heart finally erupted in waves of uncontrollable sobs.

It isn't supposed to be like this.
This doesn't really happen.
Preschoolers are not supposed to be forced into the cold without a coat.
Members are not supposed to huddle together to watch smoke billow.
The cross is not supposed to be blackened with smoke and ash.
Stained glass is not supposed to be shattered on the ground.
You aren't supposed to stand in the parking lot, helpless as your other home coughs out huge billows of black smoke.
It isn't supposed to happen, not to us, not here.

But it did happen.

And today we have sought meaning.
Today, the world looks different.
Today, we spoke of "loss" and "salvage" and "reclamation."
Today, there were no Friday Prayers.
Today, the church leadership met to join our pastor, as he tries to help us limp along this road.
Today, this became my church.

After 2 and a half years (almost to the day) of leading them, guiding them, walking this journey in this place, learning from them, I am at home. Somewhere yesterday between 2:10 when I last looked at the clock and 2:17, my heart for this place increased a million times over. I don't know how to explain the difference; I don't know what the difference is, but it is different.

Today it wasn't my job to be there.
I needed to be there.

One of our senior adult couples came to the church about 4:30 this afternoon.
"We stayed away as long as we could," she said, "And we just had to be at our church."

At 1:30 in the morning today, I had been away from Immanuel for only a few hours, but I found my way through the bitter cold and the absolute exhaustion. I had to see for myself that the firemen were on watch. I had to see that the front doors had been locked.

I had to see the steeple standing.

I stayed away as long as I could and I just had to be at my church, one more time, before I tried to rest. I had to say goodnight.

The work has begun already.
The disaster clean-up crew started pumping water from the carpets today.
The insurance people were here today and will return tomorrow.
Photos were taken.
Power is back in the offices.

And on Sunday, we will be Immanuel at Worship. We will be who we have always been and who we are called to be right now. We will sit in different seats (10:45 a.m. at Tilghman if you haven't heard), and the stained glass will be gone from our view, but we will be Immanuel. We will be a family and God will be with us.

So, to my brothers and sisters at Immanuel, know that I love you deeply. Know that every tear, every story you've shared, every step I made into that sanctuary today, I did with you in my heart and at the forefront of my mind. Know that we are a family and that we have much to celebrate. Know that there is hope. Granted, for now we waver between deep grief and abounding hope. As I got to see more of the spaces today, and as I hugged member after member through their tears of the first sights of what was our home, I began to see hope emerge. I saw it in your eyes. I heard it in the words of one not-quite-a-member friend who said, "I see four walls. I see pews. I see stained glass. (He took a deep sigh.) We will be ok."

We will be ok.

2009 has already been set aside as our Year of Jubilee. That will not change. 2009 was to be an Invitation to Begin Anew. And we will. We will rise from the grief that has stricken us and we will be a family more deeply rooted to one another, to this place, and to the God who has always promised to be Immanuel.

Chris is working now to get pictures up on the church website if you would like to look. For those who may not be ready yet to see it, I have kept from posting pictures directly on this page. Click HERE if you would like to see them.


A united method said...

I'm so sorry Erin. My senior year at Auburn (summer before I came to Emory) our Church sanctuary flooded. I went to Africa anyway two weeks later for a mission trip.

You might feel it is a step back, and I know there is a lot of grieving coming - but remember Romans 8:28.

Let the year of Jubilee begin in the best possible way! Through resurrection :)

Joan Davis said...

In all the madness I totally forgot about the Year of Jubilee! More reasons to Praise the Lord isn't it?

A wonderful blog my friend. So, we finally got to you, huh? I'm almost as happy about that as I am with a newly saved soul, and I'll tell you, it made me all verklempt to read your words. Now, you get my complete dependence on, love and faithfulness to IBC.

I WILL see you tomorrow!

heather said...

Wow Erin.
Please know you and your FAMILY will be in my prayers as you rebuild your House together.

Jodie Allen said...

I am so sorry Erin. That is just awful. I can't imagine having to watch something like that. Wish I was closer and could help!