It was 11:30 Wednesday morning, just two days ago. Inside the scaffolding, on the back side of the steeple: A small spark, a whiff of smoke, a door was opened, and the steeple went up like a candle. Fire trucks from Portsmouth, Norfolk and the Portsmouth Naval Station did their best as huge wooden beams aflame, and fiery embers fell all around, many setting neighboring businesses and the sanctuary roof afire. By 4 they had it out, but around 6:30, as these things are wont to do it reflamed. The rekindling was discovered by TV crews doing a location shoot ahead of the big snow storm. (My Jr Hi Sunday School teacher would have called that a God-incidence). The steel beams of the steeple still stand, like arms upstretched to heaven. The sanctuary was saved, but is water-logged. The only good news there is that insurance may pay for the needed construction. Even now I can't look at the pictures, or even write these words without tears. Their young Pastor, Megan, has brought together all the needed committees, who are already at work, and other downtown churches are offering their spaces for worship. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes she will return, but is in need of ongoing prayers for Megan, the congregation, and those with whom they minister.
God of our past, our present, and our future we know that there are times in our lives when we pass through fire and floods. We know that in those times you do not leave us alone to face our struggles, but walk with us through them until we come out on the other side. Today we pray for all those facing the weirdness of this winter weather that is dry where it should be wet, wet where it should be dry, warm where it should be cold, and cold where it should be warm. We also pray for Megan and the congregation at Monumental UMC as they have walked through the fire and water, and now seek your guiding on how to proceed. In the midst of this trauma keep before them the needs of those to whom they minister that they may not become self-absorbed. A firm foundation has been laid for them, let them build upon it, and be an example for their Conference, and for all of us in the Connection...Amen