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
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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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