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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: War and Peace (not about the book) (07/07/11)

TITLE: A Church in Pieces
By Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom


Slamming on the brakes, Tom’s Chevy skidded to an abrupt stop in front of the brick building that had comforted him for most of his life. He slammed the car door and stomped to the edge of the sidewalk. The veins in his forehead were pulsating; the red splotches in his neck migrated to his flaming face.

He took a deep breath and exhaled; while bowing his head, he clenched and relaxed his jaw. Finally, he opened his eyes. As he watched the sun pirouette off the stained-glass windows, the vein in his head returned to normal. His eyes followed the steeple reaching up toward Heaven; the Holy Spirit unleashed all the prayers that had been bumbling around his brain. Tom’s knees buckled slightly at the release of weight from his heart.

This place was his respite; he enjoyed arriving early to allow the tranquility to wash over him. As he stepped into the Church, the cool air transformed his flaming face from an angry red to a healthy pink. He shook his head to empty the echo of his thudding heartbeat. Breathing in, the smell of old hymnals, the remnants of bread and juice from the last communion, and the fragrance from the altar flowers wafted up to his nose, enabling him to push aside the argument with his son.

Too soon, Church-goers started to drift in. James, a retired minister, patted Tom on the shoulder. “You’ve been in our prayers. We’ve known today would be tough. I’m afraid this new law will fracture the Church.” His mentor looked into his younger friend’s blue eyes; they were dull without the normal sparkle that drew his parishioners in, letting them know he truly cared for the entire community. The bags under his eyes told James the rumors he had heard were likely true. Today was going to be one of the roughest Sundays in the history of the Hanover United Methodist Church. Tom smiled dishearteningly at his friend.

Making his way to the pulpit, Reverend Tom glanced at his parishioners. Most people were scowling, but several members met his eyes and smiled. He managed to get through the first part of the service; his only tell of his fear was an occasional twitch of his hand.

Swallowing hard, he looked out at the congregation and began his sermon, “I’m sure everyone has heard New York State has legalized same sex marriage. The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin. However, I want to reassure everyone that this church will not change its policy. We are here to minister to anyone who walks through these doors. Jesus showed us by example, when he ministered to the outcasts. The decision to perform any marriage will remain mine, but let me…”

Suddenly, a man jumped to his feet, flailing his fist about, “Com'on, Reverend, time to draw the line in the sand. You’ve let those pantywaists into the Church; the next thing you know, they'll wanna be married here. We all know your son, Gary, is a fa..."

Pastor Tom raised his hand, “Don’t you dare finish that word, Mr. Johnson, I wouldn’t dream of allowing anyone to call you the N-word and I will not allow any hate-filled derogation in my presence. We are called upon to love all of God’s children.”

“Are you denying that your son was standing in line to get a marriage license this week? Has he asked you to officiate at this atrocity?”

Murmurings echoed throughout the sanctuary. Tom looked into his wife's tear-filled eyes; thankfully Lisa’s lips parted into a shaky smile. “My personal business will not he brought up in this format. I may not agree with my son’s choice but I will never stop loving him. If the Bishops find it necessary to admonish me for supporting my son, then they will make that decision. This church is a place of refuge and I will not allow it to become a war zone.

"In closing, Lisa and I will not be greeting you at the door today; as the choir sings, please exit as respectable Christians. We need some alone time at the altar.” He looked at the ushers who nodded in understanding. “May the peace that passes all understanding, bless and keep you all. Amen.” Lisa left her seat as the organ music started; hand in hand, the two knelt before God and prayed for strength and wisdom to carry them through the difficult days ahead.

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This article has been read 663 times
Member Comments
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Amy Michelle Wiley 07/14/11
Ah, very realistic battle. So important for us as a church to learn to love the people while not condoning the sin. You have one paragraph in the middle that switches to James' POV, but otherwise this was very well done.
Kathleen Langridge07/15/11
Written with great compassion and yet the tension the subject required.
AnneRene' Capp07/16/11
Love the strength of this story upholding righteousness, yet bolding claiming the unrighteousness of sin. Love the person - hate the sin.
C D Swanson 07/16/11
Powerful and very much a part of the world of today. A good show of battle of wills and love versus hate. I enjoyed it.
Ken Ebright 07/16/11
Wow, it was really well written. The farther/ pastor is dealing with very hard issues. Maybe a answer to the man who stood up as to ask him and the congregation to pray for his son. It really brings the point home about how the church deals with this issue sometimes not in a very good way.
Linda Goergen07/16/11
Much food for thought in this piece, about an issue many Christians struggle with, where is the line between loving the sinner and yet not accepting the sinful life that sinner has embraced. I believe our love is shone not in accepting any sin but in continuing to witness to the sinner his/her need for reconciliation with God. Anyone should be allowed in church to hear the word of God and have it minister to their souls,
but also any church that accepts homosexuality (or any sin), by marrying them or recognizing the life style as okay, is really the hate crime, because then the person is allowed to remain in a place the Bible says separates them from God!
Kim Hamlin07/17/11
Awesome piece portraying a very real conflict in the lives of many Christians, unfortunately. Perhaps more than any other, this particular sin is a true test of loving the sinner and hating the sin, in spite of the government taking the side of the sinner. Like abortion, this issue will continue to remain controversial. Your story is an effective way to begin conversations regarding this issue, great job!
Noel Mitaxa 07/21/11
Congratulations on your approach to this issue, as you expose the heartache of those caught between the blindness that attaches itself to both sides.
I love your imagery and your clarity. Well done - and get better soon.
marcella franseen07/23/11
Well done piece. The subject of homosexuality is everywhere right now. When the church puts it's hand up to say, "no this is wrong," it needs to put it's other hand out offering help and encouragement. I could feel the tension in Tom as he wrestled with loving his son and hating the sin.
Andrea Willard 08/14/11
Beautiful! 'The Holy Spirit unleashed all the prayers that had been bumbling around in his brain.' O I love this imagery. A story close to my heart. I'm at the altar stumbling words toward heaven railing against laws that bind Satan to the children of God.
Abby Kelly 09/03/11
This was such a tough story to write! I am impressed by your ability to address such a painful issue and to leave it just barely unresolved - as it is in so many churches today.
Excellent writing.