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Wanted to submit this to the challenge last week, but I wrote it a while ago, so it didn't qualify. This story grew out of a local event. A church building was destroyed by an arsonest. It has been said that every tragedy contains the seed of an equal or greater blessing. Hope you enjoy this story.
The majestic church presided over the petite cemetery for decades. Faded tombstones, many from the last century, skewed at odd angles on the ground. The towering cathedral provided shade during sweltering summers and protection from icy blasts in winter.
The congregation was as old as the building. “Young people don’t seem interested in spiritual things anymore,” Pastor Samuel bemoaned. “I don’t know how the church will continue once we pass on.”
“Now don’t get all worked up Pastor. This is God’s church and he knows what’s best,” the elderly caretaker replied. “I’ve been watching over this old building for nigh on fifty years and God hasn’t let us down yet. Just be faithful and watch God work.”
“I’ve been preaching my heart out for five years,” Sam muttered. “And I’ve yet to see God do anything.”
Ernie frowned as he went back to trimming the grass around those faded monuments, enjoying his job as caretaker that let him visit his wife’s grave daily.
“I’m concerned about Pastor,” he said after Sam left. “His sermons haven’t changed since you left and neither has the congregation. He tries hard, but I believe God has to do something drastic to wake people up. I just hope it’s not too late... I miss you Edie,” he sniffled as he picked up his rake.
Summer turned to fall with no mountain moving. A few more gravestones appeared, Ernie continued his relentless maintenance, and Pastor Sam sank deeper into the dungeon of doubt.
A chill wind howled through the cemetery one autumn day, sending a shiver down Ernie’s spine. For the first time in his memory, the church failed to provide comfort. The blessed shadow now felt cold and distant, as a small twister stirred up leaves around the tombstones.
The sentinel’s cold shadow warned of coming danger. Late that night, an intruder smashed a stained glass window to penetrate her holy interior. Never had she been ravished like this. Her assailant showed no mercy as he stripped her of her virtue and honor. Sadly, gasoline and a match accomplished what time could not.
The arsonist fled the building with his spoils, as flames poured out shattered windows. Old, dry wood stood no chance against ravenous flames. The alarm resounded too late; the edifice was a smoldering ruin.
“Well Ernie, you said it’d take an act of God to get our attention. I never thought that meant burning down the building. I guess he’s telling me it’s over.”
“So, that’s it, Pastor. You’re going to roll over and die. I thought you had more than that in you,” Ernie challenged.
“What am I supposed to do? Even if we rebuild, who’ll come? I’ve been fooling myself, thinking that I could build a church.”
“That’s right; you failed because you were building it.”
“Is that supposed to comfort me?” Sam said defensively.
“All I know is that only God can build a church. Maybe this is God telling you to get out of the way and let him build his church!”
“Or maybe he’s telling me I’m a fool… hey, where are you going?”
Ernie picked through the rubbish toward the charred pulpit that stood as a beacon of hope in the midst of devastation.
“Well Pastor,” he said with a smile. “Here’s His answer.”
“So the pulpit survived.”
“It’s not the pulpit, but what’s on it,” Ernie said, holding Sam’s Bible. “Not even singed. I’d say God wants you to start anew. Only this time Pastor, do it His way.”
* * * * *
“Hello Ernie, Pastor here. It’s been a while, but that new building sure looks nice. I bet the shade of the steeple feels good right about now. Are you enjoying the laughter and singing of children again? I sure am. I hope you and Edith are comfortable.”
He paused to wipe away a tear. “If not for your dedication, this incredible cathedral wouldn’t be standing guard over you and the community. I pray she endures as long as her predecessor.”
Pastor Sam walked away, failing to see the building stand taller as she winked at Ernie’s headstone.
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