“This won’t be a typical service” cautions a friend who greets us when we arrive.
The church suffered a tragedy, just three days before and not all the members yet know. The service will communicate this news and provide some needed God-perspective on the situation. I appreciate the warning, while wishing our visit could be on a different day. However, I know God has a reason for us to be here today.
The service begins normally enough: Singing a chorus from the hymnal, a choir (something I’ve not seen in years), a few hymns, a time to greet one another, an offering, and a woman’s trio performing a “special music” number. We know some of the songs, though the rest of the tunes have a vague familiarity.
The pastor stands to give his message. Until this point his public persona has been warm and inviting, abounding with smiles, and most engaging. Now he’s somber, struggling to release the words that well up in his heart. Fighting tears, he shares the news bravely, forthright and with honesty. Ladies dab silent tears and stifle sniffles that break the silence. This is a day when we need “to remind ourselves who God is.”
His four-part message is a straightforward progression: 1) we are frail creatures, 2) we need God, 3) he is a faithful God, and 4) there is a future. It’s a message of comfort, abounding in hope. Our response to this tragedy is simple: to pray, weep, and then help.
Based on the pastor’s conduct and the congregation’s response, this close-knit church deeply cares for each other. They celebrate together and mourn together. This is what true community is all about and how church should be.