Over twenty years have passed since my participation in the famous church break in. Well, maybe not so famous, but certainly memorable.
There was a rather large payment due on the bank loan for the new sanctuary . To address this situation a twenty-four hour prayer vigil was planned. They wanted us to be physically in the building, as we were praying for guidance in the retiring of the debt. There was a sign up sheet in the Narthex, but by the time my spouse and I got there, the easier hours had been taken.
Our assigned time was for 3:00 o’clock in the morning. The 2:30 person was supposed to wait until we arrived to let us in. Somehow, that person was unable to keep his appointment, so when we arrived there was no unlocked door anywhere into the building. We could have stayed outside and prayed just as effectively, but in our youth and zeal it seemed important to be at the altar.
“Hey,” my sidekick shouted,” the door to the kitchen is kind of thin and would be easy to open. “
I did not know if there was a security alarm and so was hesitant to abet this possibly felonious intent.
“Wait, let’s think about this,” said my sensible self.
Before the words had died in the air, Baby Face Nelson had whipped out a credit card and slid it down to the lock as if he were familiar with this heist procedure.
Click! It opened. We just stood there staring at each other, a little shocked that we really did it.
“Now if the police come,” I offered, “I can just hear them guffawing at Bonnie and Clyde saying they were forced to break in to God’s house to pray…and for money at that.”
It was too late to turn back now. We edged our way into the dark kitchen; with me so close behind him he looked like a four-legged animal. I felt along the wall until a light switch seemed evident. Seeing exactly where the door to the hall was had a short-lived elation. It was locked!
We sat down on kitchen stools to ponder the problem. After all, we were both college graduates; surely there was a solution. I figured, we were in the building for which we were praying, why not just stop right there, but being a determined man of God, he would settle for nothing less than the sanctuary.
We each seemed to notice the pass-though at the same time. It did not lock and had a closure that rolled up with no resistance. He hopped up and was through to the hall in two shakes. Then, he unlocked the door for me to enter the traditional way. By now, we were giggling from all the exertion and pseudo-criminal activity.
The sanctuary was the epitome of serenity; quiet and beautiful with the light from one candle that burned all the time in a holder suspended from the ceiling. Our unexpected escapade made the being there all the more special. There are places in this world where being a Christian means to break the law; where locked church doors and locked truth-speaking mouths are the norm. Our forced entry was merely the result of an oversight in providing a plan B for welcomed parishioners.
We were reluctant to leave the lovely moment, the soothing peace, alone in the Lord’s house in the middle of the night. Baby Face had been right…this was better than the parking lot or the kitchen.
When it was time for the next slotted pray-er, no one appeared. After a decent interval, we decided to leave - back through the kitchen door. I, feeling responsible for the whole world, fretted about locking others out. My wise spouse had no such worries.
“Everybody has a credit card,” he stated with that knowing husband-way, “let ‘em break in like we did.”
Over the intervening years, I have often thought about that unusual night. Maybe if the police had noticed us it would have made a good front page story about two loyal choir members who forced their way into God’s house to pray.
It occurs to me that it is probably better to break in and land on our knees, than to fall out and land on something worse. Of course, that is merely an observation from all my years in the big house...the one with the steeple.
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