You’d be surprised what happens around our church building at night. A little less than a year ago we upgraded the video camera system here at the church. One of the benefits is the ability to go back and watch video from all hours of the day. This video catches all sorts interesting people who wander through our church grounds. I’ve seen video of neighbor-hood kids riding their bicycles in the parking lot. People are resting on the benches under the awning. And, yes, there have even been a couple of times where our video caught a glimpse of someone making trouble in the neighborhood. In addition to all of these types of people and activities that you might expect, the video also shows that there are people who come to this building as a place to encounter God. In particular, the statue of Jesus carrying the cross in our courtyard is a surprisingly strong draw.
One day we were looking back through the video to find something that we thought happened in the middle of the night, but then I saw them. Our cameras don’t record sound and at night they only record in black and white, so as I watched this drama unfold on screen it had the quality of an old silent movie.
It was about midnight when a man and woman came walking through our parking lot. They walked together around the south side of the building and entered the courtyard. They walked up to the statue and seemed to pray together at the statue. Then, after a few minutes, he went to sit on the bench near the statue and she went to sit on the steps at the end of the education wing. Without speaking to him, she gets up, walks around the building by herself and kneels down at the round flower planter by the car port and begins to pray. After her solitary prayer she gets up, and walks back in the direction from where she came. A few more minutes after this, he gets up from the courtyard and eventually walks back in the same direction.
As I watched this drama unfold in silent black and white video, I found myself deeply moved and drawn in. I began to wonder what might be going on in their lives where they would come to this place together, yet leave separately. Had I just watched a significant life event unfold? Also, what was stirring in their spirit that they felt the need to come to this place and to that statue in order to pray? And what does this building and the statue of Jesus mean to them? I found myself intrigued with this clearly important moment, yet also moved to prayer for them. It seemed as though it demanded a response, yet the anonymity of it meant that the only response I could have would be through the Holy Spirit that drew them here in the first place.
I was thinking about this story the other day because this is not the only time something like this has happened. From time to time there is evidence of the fact that people in our neighborhood engage with this building, and in particular this statue of Jesus, on a fairly regular basis. This week we found a pile of stones with names painted on them, one of which said “please pray for….” It’s a small breadcrumb left of a much larger spiritual meal that some-one unknown to us has had at the foot of the statue of Jesus.
There are many ways in which we work to build up the influence of this church in this world. We attend to the activities and ministries and worship that we do as a congregation and we all share versions of that with the people we meet. I have been reminded, however, that while we have a certain amount of control over the things that hap-pen in and around our church building, that at the same time this building has a life of its own. There are many people for whom this building and this space means some-thing important. People who we may never meet who engage with this space in ways that we have no control over.
It seems to me that what is true of our building is also true of our congregation as a whole, and our individual lives as Christians. There are parts of our lives that we construct and present to the world in particular ways. But then there are parts of our lives that we put out there but that wind up having an impact on others in ways that we maybe didn’t intend or don’t even know about. Maybe it’s simply the way that we carry our-selves on a daily basis. Maybe it’s a kind word shown to someone. Maybe it’s the things we don’t say rather than the things we do.
It is important to attend to how well we present our-selves to the world as people of faith. It is also important to remember that God already is using us to touch people’s lives long before we are aware of it and in ways that we may never know.
Each month for our newsletter Pastor Alan writes a short article on a variety of topics. At times he will also create a video version of the article.