Today’s blog post is from Brian Wentzel, Director of Music at First Lutheran Church in Lorain, OH.
As we begin the forty days of Lent, we remember Jesus’ forty years in the wilderness as well as the Israelites’ forty years of wandering. The congregation I serve, First Lutheran in Lorain, Ohio, is also experiencing a time of wandering in the wilderness after a fire destroyed our ninety-year-old building in August of 2014. The last two and a half years have been difficult, but they have also been life-affirming.
It is amazing how a shock like this can force a congregation to re-focus on what really matters. For example, most of us have experienced the difficulty of changing service times or styles. My congregation combined two services into one and changed the time three times in the months after the fire with hardly a complaint! There is a strengthened sense of community and commitment to each other and to our work together. It is true that some families have left the congregation: some unhappy with decisions that have been made, and some unable to cope with worshiping in a middle-school cafeteria. But on the whole our members have taken ownership of being the church in a way we didn’t need to before.
There are certainly challenges to our wandering situation, and we are eagerly looking forward to the completion of a new building this fall, built to serve our 21st-century mission. But in the same way as the Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer, and giving alms, our time in the wilderness has served to strengthen and deepen our faith.
The day after the fire I wrote a simple song for the congregation to sing. It has become a favorite, and on our church website (www.firstlutheranlorain.org/about/fire) you can hear our congregation singing it. It draws on 1 Peter 2 to emphasize that it is God’s people who are the true temple, a lesson my congregation has internalized over the last few years:
We are the church,
God’s living stones.
We are a temple
of flesh and bones.
We live in hope,
sharing our trust
that God can bring life
out of ashes and dust.