She held the Christmas letter from her dearest friend in her hand and savored every morsel of news. It had been years since they had seen each other. Both were married with children, and they were not really children anymore, they were teens. Soon both of them would have empty nests to contend with.
Her eyes followed the lines until the closing paragraph. She couldn’t believe what she was reading:
…and they wouldn’t even bury the man because he wasn’t a member of the church. Isn’t that just the most bazaar thing you’ve ever heard of? We are simply beside ourselves as to know what to do. Jerry suggested we buy a piece of property and make a public cemetery, but land on the island is so scarce and expensive. Then we found out only churches can own cemeteries. Since there is only one church on the island the man has no final resting place. I have no idea what the city is going to do about it…
Again her eyes skimmed the paragraph.
“That’s the most absurd thing I ever heard of,” she muttered to herself as her outrage gradually built, “and for a church to be the ones to deny final rest to someone! Why it’s not only un-Christ-like, it’s absolutely mean! No wonder people hate the church! Why we are the ones who should be serving the community in their time of loss, not tossing them out on the streets!”
All that day indignation and righteous anger boiled over and over in her mind. There had to be a solution.
Then as lightning flashing across a storm cluttered sky, she had an idea.
Making a long distance call to her friend, she asked how many people on the island would be interested in attending a church of a different denomination.
“Lots, probably,” her friend replied. “The service personnel here are from all over the States, all types of denominations are represented. Most of us just meet in homes on Sunday morning.”
“What if you had a building…an actual church you could call your own?”
“Why that would be great!” her friend answered, curious excitement building in her voice, “what do you have in mind?”
And that is how it started. One letter, one phone call and the ball was rolling.
She contacted her pastor to meet with the local ministerial alliance and the local mission board describing the situation on the island. After investigation to verify the story and the possible avenues, a solution was found.
Her denomination purchased an old abandoned storefront and the two adjoining lots. Summer mission teams from several denominations rallied together and did the labor. The storefront was remodeled into a comfortable central air and heated facility perfect for the Sunday services of all the denominations on the island and community outreach projects. The two lots were cleared, one for parking and the other for a cemetery.
Opening Sunday was a bittersweet moment. Gathered in the sanctuary were families of the oil camps, the summer mission teams, the community and the unburied deceased man. Hymns were sung. Congratulatory comments were made by local officials. A brief sermon was shared. And last, a humble final internment into the fresh earth of the church’s cemetery.
It was Christmas again and she was reading the letter of her dear friend. Her mind slipped back to another letter was written 30 years ago. What a summer that had been! Her friend’s family had long since been transferred from the tiny island. The small church had never grown much in membership as the island population is small and the oil camp residents rotate off when their tour of duty is complete. But the congregation in the cemetery continued to grow because one woman found a way to serve, a man, she never met.
© 12/27/03 Lissa M. Lee