This was an awkward kind of week. The Lenten season had drawn to a close and I was looking forward to a glorious celebration of Easter - well hopefully, I was hoping to put more intention and effort into the Holy Week than I had with a "neglected" Lent.
Good Friday was weird. Sat down and listened to a sermon which was the antithesis of a sermon I had given the previous Easter.
Saturday was great. Went for the late night vigil at the Catholic Church downtown. It was all in Chinese, but with my ever-worsening knowledge of the Chinese language, I could still make out quite a bit (surprisingly!)
Rolling over into Sunday, the shocking report comes through that the "state-recognized" Church where we hold our services is on fire. Initial reports stated that the fire was small, probably confined to the area where we held our "English" service; a glimpse from afar presented me with a billow of smoke that was pretty foreboding...and a close-up view of the fire was devastating: top 3 floors were razed, and the 2 bottom floors were left untouched.
A fire is nothing pretty to watch..ever!!! A burning church on Easter Sunday is the most ominous thing ever. It's like something in the earth's essence was crying out.
A church is certainly not just the bricks, stone and mortar; it's the people most importantly. But still, I couldn't help feeling torn; that building was after all a rather powerful symbol. The first time I had seen it - a mere 3 years ago - despite the obvious fact that language would be the biggest barrier, it brought me great joy to find that Church, a striking contradiction in a land that for so long was considered none to tolerant of religion.
And on the first day we got to hold a service in that church, I was simply ecstatic. And since then we've held services there, hosted our Christmas party there (2009), and basically a part of the local Christians' family.
The fire didn't raze any of this camaraderie...but it sure strained things for all people involved. A lot of investment goes into "bricks and mortar", technology and all the fine trimmings that were used to accessorize the church.
All that's gone now, and I'm not exactly in a position to offer any sort of financial help; but as always I will offer up prayer: for peace of mind for those most affected by this tragedy; for the ability to recover quickly and rebuild things even better than before; and lastly, for unity in the church, despite everything that's happened.