Charles L. Wildman
Interim Conference Minister
by Rev. Charles L. Wildman
HARTFORD (04/17/2012) -- When dawn’s early light revealed the charred remains of what had been the historic sanctuary of the Somers Congregational Church UCC, the entire community was shocked in disbelief. For miles around, people came to keep silent vigil: the curious, the heartbroken, the disbelieving. The grieving of hundreds, even thousands, revealed the meaning of the congregation to its community. The same has been true in Saugatuck, Plainville, and other communities where major disasters have befallen houses of worship. In such moments, comments like these pour forth:
I drive by this building every day on my way to work. It has been a friend, a stable presence, a sign of hope.
We could see the tall steeple for miles around, set so solidly on this hilltop; a faithful reminder of God’s presence in good times and in bad.
Once a farm community, now transitioning to country residential, Somers has benefited through the years by this church’s reliable presence and continuity of faith.
My children were baptized here, my parents buried from here, my daughter was married here, my son welcomed home from war here. This church has ministered to our community. Now it is our turn to support this church with everything that we can.
The pastoral staff has been there for us, always open and welcoming to the entire community. We are here for them.
A Church can have countless programs, missions, ministries. But even its mere presence and wide open door can mean far more than most folks can articulate. A church’s physical structure can be an emotional anchor even to the unchurched: something lasting, a symbol of hope in dire times.
That’s why, when a church closes its doors, an entire community mourns.
That’s why small churches remain surprisingly resilient in the face of diminishing memberships and impossibly small budgets.
When everything is falling apart, there stands the church.
When life decisions are on the line, the church is sought for guidance. The church was there for me when, one evening, I wandered in because the lights were on. Kneeling at the altar, being prayed over by a pastor who tenderly received my confession that I believed I was being called to ordained ministry, I experienced a welcome home warmth deep within my soul.
More than fellowship or social justice, brilliant preaching or the latest ministry techniques, the Church of Jesus Christ is Christ to the world, God’s love for humanity when times are tough and futures hang in the balance.
Though heavily bombed by Nazi air power in 1940, England’s Coventry Cathedral remained grounded in its city: charred, broken, but there. It stands today, with a daily stream of thousands visiting its roofless walls, a place of prayer for all peoples.
Church matters! You’d better believe it! Always has, always will.
Christ’s body, broken but whole; God with us in wind and fire, sin and evil, as well as in springtimes of delight…
…the crocus peeking through the snow.