Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” ~Collect for the Sunday closest to September 21
This Sunday marks the two year anniversary of what we somewhat euphemistically refer to as the “scaffolding event.” Over $14 million and two years later, who would have imagined where we would find ourselves? I smile to myself when I remember my drive to the church that late evening, pushing my way past policeman, following a fireman up the stairs in the dark while water was audibly rushing through four floors of the parish house. I smile because I thought this was clearly going to be THE challenge of my time here at St. Mark’s. Of course it has been one of the things our community has grappled with, but compared to the challenges that have ensued from the pandemic, I wish we’d only had the scaffolding to deal with.
However, that next Sunday when we gathered for church, with air-conditioning provided through a large plastic tube, I claimed from the pulpit we had what we needed. We didn’t even need to reprint the bulletins that week. Somehow the prayers, the readings, and the music all worked. I will never read this collect without thinking of that week, but it was one I loved before that event. It just became amplified in its relevance.
I think one gift of the scaffolding event was it reminded us who we are as a community. We are blessed with beautiful facilities, but have always been more than a building. When I first started as the rector over seven years ago, I heard a longing in our community to make sure all our hard renovation efforts would lead us out into the city in a fuller way. As we start to see the fullness of what we will gain from this unanticipated renovation, it leads us in the same direction. We will be prepared in ways not imagined and these spaces will continue to welcome our broader community as they are refreshed for the future.
We are always placed in the middle of things passing away. The last two years have challenged us in profound ways to seek that which endures. Our prayer, our caring for one another and our neighbor, and a deepening reliance on God’s providence are just a few I would name. The tenacious generosity of our community is another. We still have what we need. We have God and we have one another. As I said in our construction update, “It’s been quite a two years. But if we had to go through them, there are no other people I would have chosen.” Thanks be to God!