This month marks a year since our sanctuary at Chino UMC was set afire. I want to take this opportunity to reflect on the past year and the road we have traveled together.
No one discounts the trauma our congregation has experienced because of the fire and resulting damage to the sanctuary. Already, in fact, the event has formed a new identity for us as “the church that had its sanctuary burned.” It is quite possible that my ministry here will be remembered in large part as “the pastor who sat in his office while the church burned!” I hope not, but you never know!
My hope, of course, is that we will not let our tragedy define us. Rather, I hope we will take our tragedy and, with God’s power, transform our identity to “the church that is on fire for the Lord!”
During this past year, we have heard countless “updates” on the progress of rebuilding the sanctuary. There is no doubt that reconstruction has taken a lot of my time, your time, the Trustees time and our Insurance Company’s money. But even more important than the construction updates have been the signs and wonders of God in our midst. Have you noticed them?
Two classes have gone through the “Experiencing God” course. Out of those two classes, individuals are coming alive in their walk with God, finding new and exciting ways to recognize God’s action in our lives and joining in with God to be in ministry. We have hosted a series of services with Dr. Tom Fuller, a United Methodist Evangelist who helped us learn a lot about John and Charles Wesley and, even more importantly, what Wesleyan Christian Spirituality is all about. There have been sermon series on Spiritual Disciplines, a look at First and Second Corinthians and how Paul deals with Christian Discipleship, and a series on Spiritual Gifts culminating with a Spiritual Gift Inventory and the discovery of our unique spiritual gifts. We experienced the miracle of a Thanksgiving Day meal for the community and the Sierra Service Project, to name just a couple of mission-oriented ministries that were birthed after the fire. It has been a year of focusing on deepening our Passionate Spirituality, and I think we have, as a congregation, grown quite a bit as a result.
We have worshipped in the Social Hall this entire year, and that has had a significant impact on us. We are learning to anticipate God’s presence even in a setting in which we are not accustomed to experiencing it. We are trying new things in worship and finding that God meets us there, even as He has met us in old, familiar ways. My deepest desire is that our time of exile from the sanctuary will be a time when we meet God and let Him transform us individually and congregationally into the people He desires us to be. Is that not your desire as well?Welcome to the Continued Journey!