Over the last several months, a number of you have given freely of your time and energies to help with our Deacon subgroup-led ‘asset divestiture and relocation.’ Or, in layman’s terms, the cleanout crew! With your help, we’ve completed hours logged, muscles used, and decisions made as decades of artifacts have been considered for their place in our present and future home.

Items such as decaying technological equipment and boxes of old bills some dozens of years in the making were among the items with which we needed to part ways. All that paper went to the shredder, but many other items — chairs, books, cribs, tables, you name it  — were the objects of high interest at our community-wide auction last Saturday.

Watching folks envision how they might use our church’s stuff was intriguing of course. But in the days that have followed as buyers came to load up their items, I have found myself yesterday wandering these newly hollowed-out halls, feeling, well, hollow. Vacant children’s classrooms with dated decorations still dotting the walls, a kitchen stripped of all the engines that make it function, blank boards and echoing, excavated spaces created a sense of emptiness for me, and perhaps for you too.

As I’ve walked the buildings, I’ve thought too about the empty seasons of our lives where we’ve experienced loss of a job, a person, an identity that filled up the corners of our world. Or like the times where the things that bring us joy and hopefulness have slowed to a trickle, drowned out in our ears and our hearts by matters of fear and anxiety, worry and helplessness. For it seems that emptiness — of place or space, of heart or spirit, by our choice or against our will — can function as a state of grief or despair, where we wonder if ever life inside will be full again.

When I experience or bear witness to emptiness like I did this week in our spaces, I know I must hear again the stories of new life: stories like the new church plant in Haywood County where our chapel pews will be anchored anew; or another fellow Baptist Church who will be using our vintage pianos upon which their young children will learn; or like the young woman whose father passed away and with a bit of money he left her, is kneading her grief and passion with our well-used kitchen equipment to form her own bakery. I must return to the vision we cast together so boldly of new life in our midst without the weight of stuff so easily entangling our mission. I must train my eyes to see that grass we will plant: open space right in our backyard, inviting us into possibility we cannot yet even imagine. I must feel the hopeful warmth of that fire that Judy Brown describes, released and growing because of the space created intentionally within.

I must remember that it was in the wrenching emptiness of a tomb where all things came alive!

Together in the work of Love,
Pastor Emily

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