2003-12-04 - To the Church...
1 Cor 1:2-3 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (NAS)
Monday evening the Pitman United Methodist Church burned to the ground. The church in Pitman is 118 years old. The town actually started as a Methodist summer camp meeting-style retreat. Eventually permanent homes started to appear, and year-round residents established the town in the late 1900s.
The spectacular fire destroyed the building which was built in the 1960's. The external structure was brick, but the entire interior was filled with wooden floors and columns, pews, lecterns and choir lofts. The building closed around 5:00 in the evening, when the Pastor locked the building up for the night. There were no activities planned for the evening, which is unusual for this time of year. All three Pitman fire companies were called in, and one company from a nearby town. No one was hurt. No other buildings were damaged, that I have heard. A few families were without power and were forced to evacuate, but I believe even that has been corrected and the families are home.
There were reporters and news helicopters everywhere. There were lots of pictures of residents with very sad or concerned looks. The building was literally the center of town, and it is a loss. Several people were interviewed, but one stuck out in my mind. She was a member of the church, and concerned with what was happening. But she was not downtrodden or sad. There was even the hint of a smile as she reminded the reporter that, "The church is not the building. It is the people, and we will rebuild." The spirit of the joy of the life in Christ was evident.
So, while there is no address to deliver a letter to the UMC Pitman, the church is still able to receive the mail and answer it. Just like Paul's letter to the church at Corinth, the letter was delivered to the people. And that is really the point. The church will still celebrate its 119th anniversary.
I have sung in that building, to the church and to the Lord, on a number of occasions. The building and all the fixtures were beautiful and well-tended. The town and other churches in town will pull together and support each other. And I have little doubt that another special structure will be constructed on the site. But the church will meet in the new building, not the people in the church.
Grace & Peace,