I sighed as I entered the sanctuary. Being a pastor is sometimes difficult, and this would be one of the hardest days of my life.
“Good morning. Isn’t this a wonderful day in the Lord?” Murmurs could be heard.
“This is our final service. Tomorrow at noon this church will be demolished to be replaced by a shopping center. We have been offered a building half this size ten miles away. I am grieved, because many of you have no transportation. I pray that you will find comfort in one of the other local churches. This church has stood in this location for thirty-three years – I have been here for twenty-three years. This has become my home, as I know it has been a lifeline to so many of you.”
As I continued, the congregation began to weep. We wept for losing friends and family to progress and eminent domain, and for being forced to find a new church home.
After service, twelve members, including me, decided to stay and pray until the following day at noon. We asked God’s forgiveness for our selfishness and sinful ways.
Hours passed and the sun began to set in the western sky. A strange glow, like sunshine reflecting through the stained glass windows, covered us. We felt an amazing sense of peace.
Mabel, the sixty-something grandmother, was praying: “Lord, this has been Your home and we ask that Your presence remain here long after the building is gone. May all who pass here learn the true knowledge of You.”
Prayers continued and Fred remarked: “It’s midnight.” No one left. We remained throughout the night, focused upon God’s mercy and loving kindness.
Morning arrived amid fog and a sliver of sunlight. Demolition equipment was heard grinding outside as they prepared to begin their work.
Mr. Leeson, the foreman, entered the church reverently. “I’m sorry, folks, but it’s time to go.”
As everyone prepared to leave, Judy, a child of nine, approached Mr. Leeson. “Look what I found,” she said excitedly.
Mr. Leeson knelt in front of her. “Where did you find this?”
“Over there,” Judy pointed to the corner. “Come see, there are lots more.” Judy led him to the corner and lifted a piece of broken tile.
A smile came over Mr. Leeson’s face: “It is amazing.”
The mall owner, Mr. Nagle, strode into the room in a frenzy. “It’s time to knock this stupid building down. Come on, everyone, get out now or we start the wrecking ball anyway.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Two months later, I stood smiling at the podium – the same one I had stood at nearly every Sunday for the past twenty-three years. The sounds of construction were heard in the near distance.
The entire congregation was present for this special occasion, as well as several construction workers.
I beamed as I spoke: “It is a blessing to be in the Lord’s house. He has answered our prayers in an amazing way. Two months ago, I stood here and announced the demolition of our church. Today, I stand here to announce our new name and thank God for allowing us to remain in this location. Judy, would you like to tell us what you found two months ago?”
“I was just walking around and tripped on a loose tile. I lifted it and found a snail that looked like a rainbow. I thought it was the light shining on it, but it wasn’t. The snail was actually colored. I showed it to Mr. Leeson and he called his friends. They came and looked at the snail and said lots of big words that I don’t understand.” Judy stopped and asked: “Can I stop now?”
I said, “Of course. I’ll finish the story. As you know, the snails were thought to be extinct, but you see they are alive and well. If you will follow me, I’ll show you our snails.”
In the corner, a wall and part of the floor was encased in glass. “From here you can see the snails living in their colony. We give praise to God for using a child’s curiosity to allow our church to remain intact, while the mall is being around us. With the status of housing an endangered species, we can stay here indefinitely.”
Walking back to the podium, I asked: “Are you ready for the unveiling of our new name?” Stepping back, I pulled off the covering so everyone could read: “The Church of the Holy Snail.”
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