St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Mountain Top
On my way home from my sister’s house, I pass through a portion of the Lackawanna State Forest that was destroyed by a raging wildfire about a decade ago. In winter not a sign of life is apparent; gaunt black skeletons of a once vibrant forest vista stand in sad testimony to the ravages of such an all-consuming event on either side of Church Road as I drive through just a few miles from home.
It seems that in some ways our parishes stand much as these burned-out trees, struggling to stay upright, against the ravages of declining attendance and membership, yet with mounting maintenance costs and without full-time clergy in most congregations. Once we were centers of community resources and activities and our church bells resounded through our valleys calling us to worship. Once the joyful noise of rambunctious children tested our patience during worship. Now the prim silence reminds us of their absence.
So my thoughts wandered during the bleak drive through the forest, but that was winter. I had made the mistake of thinking this was a lifeless landscape, but no! Spring has arrived! The skeletal trees still stand, but from the fertile earth, a new vibrant green forest is emerging, as beautiful as the original ever was! Time marches forward and the new forest will erase the scars of the old fire, which only fertilized the soil and made it even more productive.
We must not let a winter’s view of our faith and parishes confuse us into thinking that the fire of the Holy Spirit burns less brightly than before. As Christians, we know that life is eternal and that our faith will be rewarded. The Jesus Movement isn’t about statistics, buildings and finances, nor has its time passed. It is about releasing ourselves from the blinders that keep us looking backwards. Let us move forward into the bright future with new plans and missions to serve God’s purpose instead of being bound to structures that stand as relics of a previous time. When we let the Spirit lead, we will see the new growth of life and faith inviting us to join.
Let us continue to be open to what our pilgrimage journey teaches us!
Image Copyright: dinosmichail / 123RF Stock Photo