“It’s just not going to be the same.”
“They’ll take down all the trees.”
“We’ll be worshipping in a parking lot!”
“We should have bought that property years ago.”
Every summer, our church has “early service” in the woods behind our building. It’s lovely, really. Primitive wooden benches nestled beneath ancient trees. Birds and chipmunks scurry nearby; we take communion to the music of leaves rustling overhead. You get the feeling that you are far removed from the bustle of modern life.
But that was before the apartment complex that is fast rising behind the church property. Large buildings with rows of windows. Asphalt that stretches on and on like melted licorice. All week long machines hum and power nailers crack. Soon the occupants will arrive, with their boxes of treasures and messy lives.
I’m proud to say that my church family has moved past the grumbling (well, most of us). Has recognized that a mission field, as well as an apartment complex, has appeared on our doorstep. We’ve made up cool cloth bags with our church logo and filled them with fun things: Christian reading material (thank you Guideposts!), microwave popcorn with a punny label (Pop on over and meet us!), a coupon for a free homemade birthday cake. Teen-aged boys will even be available to help families move in.
In Luke, chapter 10, Jesus told a rather long story about knowing who your neighbor is. It involved bandits and bloody bandages and religious folk too particular to dirty their hands with real life predicaments. It also featured a Samaritan, an outsider who recognized a need when he saw it. Perhaps if He were telling it today, that tale might involve zoning boards and bulldozers and U-Haul trailers.
Summer is coming to an end and so are our early outdoor services. I’m hoping that by next summer, many of our neighbors will be coming to church. Perhaps there will even be a well-worn path through the remaining trees that separate our properties.
I’d like that. And I think Jesus would, too.