‘This has the feeling of Easter morning’

Pastor reflects on God’s resurrection work

By Jerrod B. Lowry | Presbyterians Today

The Rev. Jerrod B. Lowry smiles at a recent resurrection moment, as the keys of a closing church are passed to an emerging congregation. Courtesy of Jerrod B. Lowry

I recently posted on Facebook a picture of Sy Harrington, a lifelong member from Erwin Presbyterian Church in Erwin, North Carolina, shaking hands and passing a key for the facility to a commissioned ruling elder, Jose Perez, who pastors Manantial de Vida, a Latino worshiping community. A meeting had just ended between members of an administrative committee that dissolved Erwin Presbyterian, leaders from Manantial and staff from the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina. We met to discuss if Manantial, a growing worshiping community with up to 70 members, that was being forced out of their location, could meet on the property of the former church. After two hours of conversation, we closed with prayer. Manantial had a new home.

There was a strange but clear feeling of excitement as the meeting ended. I mentioned it to those on my left and right. They were feeling it, too. And others, hearing our conversation, began to say they felt the same. We all agreed that excitement was overtaking the room.

“This has the feeling of Easter morning,” I shared. I knew I was excited even though I wasn’t sure I knew what I meant by “feeling as if it were Easter morning.” After some time for reflection, I’m now understanding what I meant.

Like Easter, this meeting was bringing new life to what so many thought was dead and gone forever. A church was closing, but I was feeling excitement about new possibilities — even though those possibilities were unknown and ambiguous. Something was happening here.

Could this be the feeling of Mary or the women (depending on which Gospel account you read) on Easter morning? As they ran to tell the disciples, I’m sure they were not clear as to what they really witnessed, but they were excited that they had seen what could only be explained as God’s work.

I’ve seen former churches repurposed to become congregations for other denominations, wedding chapels and community centers. What we were doing was not novel. Nevertheless, I was happy that a congregation that was struggling to find a home found one. I was pleased that the former Erwin congregation had also found a home with a nearby Presbyterian congregation.

So, I posted about the Easter excitement in the room. Many of my Facebook friends responded in a way that made it seem like celebrations were reverberating across the country. They expressed joy about our joy. Many asked how they can duplicate what we were experiencing.

My response: I don’t know. I did not do it. We did not plan it. Things were happening, and we just let them develop until we found ourselves in this room together, excited about how we got to this point and excited about what else could possibly be ahead for ministry within and beyond the walls of Erwin Presbyterian Church.

Sure, there were many little conversations that led us here. Others who were part of those conversations may want to piece together a play-by-play narrative as a road map for others to duplicate. However, I’m certain that what brought this all about was far beyond our own control.

Who knows what will happen? What has been planted may not bear fruit. What has been planted may bear fruit we cannot stomach or appreciate. Then again, the fruit may be the old familiar fruit we’ve grown before and enjoyed.

I do, however, believe that if we allow ourselves to dream, make room for what has never been done, and allow those who have not been allowed to lead take the lead, we will see God do exciting and scary things. The church will be different, but the gospel will still be good news.

As my favorite prayer reminds me, “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”

I don’t know how we got to this place, but I trust that God is doing something — because this has the feeling of Easter morning.

Jerrod B. Lowry is the general presbyter and stated clerk of the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina.

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