By Roxanne Drury
I recently learned that a church I attended for about 15 years was closing its doors. The congregation had dwindled down to about 20 people, and the church was no longer able to support itself. This was a very sad situation much like many churches are going through now with the pandemic.
I called the current pastor and inquired about all the “stuff” that was in the children’s area of the church, some of which I had donated during my time there. Some of the items would be very useful for my latest adventure at the time which was opening a preschool. He encouraged me wholeheartedly to come take anything I had donated that I could use – for which I was very grateful.
I had not attended the church for at least 13 years, maybe more. As I wandered through what used to be the children’s area of the building, I was amazed to see that the bulletin boards I put up over 13 years ago were still gracing the walls. The signage I put on the doors well over 13 years ago was still there. The little dragonfly magnets I made with the kids at my last VBS with them were still gleefully poised on the side of the metal file cabinet.
The desks and tables that once belonged to my own children were still there: the cabinets – still there; the 3-drawer plastic containers I put in each room for supplies – still there; the border around the windows and the clingy fish – still there. The twirly ceiling hangers and the 3D sun still swayed from the breeze as I opened the classroom door. The incomplete stencil I started in the preschool room – still incomplete. The banner I made and hung in what was at the time the children’s church room was still hanging in the exact same spot. Everywhere, I saw things I had done to bring life to our children’s ministry – still there, but now, lifeless and looking as though they had been lifeless for a long, long time.
I couldn’t help but wonder why it was all still there, just as I left it. It was almost like being in the Twilight Zone and I kept thinking Rod Sterling was going to announce that time had stood still in this old church building.
Perhaps no one for all those years I’d been gone was willing or had the desire or inclination to change anything. I saw fading colors that were once bright and beautiful. Drawers in disarray that were once organized and functional. Cabinets that once housed craft items that encouraged creativity and taught kids through art about God’s love, now empty but for a few broken crayons and strewn with torn paper and disheveled baskets.
And I wept. I cried for all that building meant to me and so many people. I cried for the waste of it all. I cried for God’s house. I cried for the lovely memories I have from my years in that place, and I cried for what it was now.
I couldn’t help but think, WHY? At one time, this was a thriving, loving, God-honoring church. Then it occurred to me. Perhaps this is exactly what the Preacher in Ecclesiastes was referring to when he wrote, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1.
This church building’s time was up. Its season had passed. But the people – the people who made up that church are still thriving. They are still serving. They are still believing and honoring the living God. They are still faithful. The people were the church, not the building. Over the years, I had seen many of the people who attended the church. They were serving in other churches. I saw kids who I taught Sunday School to with their own children, attending other churches. Some are in high places of leadership at other churches.
I realized, while the building had seen better days and now stood empty of a congregation, it served its purpose – the purpose God had for it. It was not a waste. Time did stand still for the building. But for the people – both kids and adults who met in that building for years and years every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night and sometimes other nights – time did not stand still. They moved on, taking with them all that they learned, all that they experienced, all of which shaped them into lovers of God and His church. God’s house continues in the lives of the people who met in the building for which time stood still.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55: 9-11
Roxanne Drury is a wife, mother, grandmother, and retired Christian preschool teacher with a teaching certificate in Early Childhood Education. She has served the Lord in children’s ministry for over 40 years and is currently on staff at Rockharbor Church.