Pastor Clayton stood staring at the pile of soot. Tears blurred his vision as he stood looking at the remains of the church. The smell of yesterday’s fire lent a dreary feel to an already rotten day. Ash marred the once clean parking lot; black footprints left a day prior by firemen in yellow suits as they had tried to save the church. In the far corner of the pile he could see melted copper, the remains of the beautiful pipe organ that had led the church through so many songs of praise these past twenty years.
Clayton had been proud of what they had built here. A congregation, once only twenty members strong, had built this church twenty years ago to accommodate their growing numbers. Now they would have to rebuild again. The prospect of rebuilding the country church didn’t really appeal to the (now old) pastor.
How could you let this happen Lord? He thought as he turned to go.
All the old pastor could think about as he walked away was what Sunday’s service would be like: without the organ, without the shelter of the church, and how many of the congregation would even show up.
This morning, young Miss Gracey had called to tell him that there still would be a service on Sunday. She had found an old army mess hall tent, and was working on finding someone to lend them enough chairs. Clayton was amazed at the young woman’s ingenuity and her enthusiasm when it came to the church. Annette Gracey, the young woman had showed up in church one day a few years ago. She was a young mother of three, and had become a widow at twenty five, forced to face the world alone. Where most would have shattered, young Gracey had stood against the odds and embraced Jesus like most never do. In the past three years the young woman’s fainth and enthusiasm had helped Clayton find his footing when things went wrong; apparently the same was true this day.
Sunday had come quickly, and almost a week of worry left Pastor Clayton feeling down. As he made his way to where his church had once stood, he wondered what today was going to turn out like. A sort of depression had overtaken him this past week, and for the first time that he could remember he had allowed someone else to ready the Sunday service. Miss Gracey had gathered together a few others and as Clayton turned his car into the church parking lot, the care that had been put into setting up was apparent.
The old mess hall tent wasn’t much too look at, but it would do. As Clayton parked his car, he could see through the front wall that had been tied back; two hundred chairs had been set up inside the tent. Towards the front of the makeshift building they had set up a stage with a microphone. Beside that stood a piano and an acoustic guitars on a stand.
Maybe today won’t be so badthe old pastor thought as he took his place on the makeshift stage. The warm summer breeze and the brightness of the morning sun lifted his spirit.
That Sunday’s service turned out to be one of the best that Clayton could remember. The two hundred chairs had been inadequate for the number of people that showed up. With the young women in his congregation working on getting everything set up, word of this Sunday’s service had spread and well over four hundred people had shown up to worship.
With half his congregation standing in the sunlight, without any shelter, Clayton had delivered, what felt to him, to be the best service he had in a while. The entire congregation -- led by Annette on the piano -- had filled the Sunday morning air with songs of praise. Together they had prayed, and thanked the Lord for his provision. Pastor Clayton wasn’t sure that he could remember another service where God’s presence was so clear.
As he drove home, still smiling about the way today’s service had turned out, Clayton prayed. “Dear Lord please forgive me for doubting in your provision. Please forgive me for taking pride in a building, instead of people who fill it each Sunday; and Lord thank you for Miss Gracey who never strays in the face of adversity.”
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