Proper 25, Year C, RCL, Track 1
Joel 2:23-32, Psalm 65, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
We have time to turn to the Lord; we can wait until the last day, “when the sun shall turn to darkness and the moon to blood.” We can wait until that moment and call upon the Lord, and the Lord will save. But why wait? The Lord says the old shall dream dreams and the young shall see visions. And if we have such imagination for our future, why would we want to wait.
This parish has both young and old. We are more fortunate than many churches our size to have a healthy group of younger people. Together we dream dreams and together we have visions for the future; the future of our lives, our families, and this parish. This year our parish had a vision; a vision to look toward the future by rebuilding and maintaining the church's buildings. Acting on a vision is never easy. It may be scary; it may take time, effort, and often money. And because following a vision requires something from us; it also takes strength.
If we look back on our lives we will most likely see that this is true. It takes time and effort to bring good things into being. Time, effort, and money are needed to raise a family. Time, effort, and money are needed to get through school and have a career. And maintaining this building, our parish, is no different.
The generations that came before us put time, money, and effort into this parish. Often looking to the future by improving what they had. In 1881 The Rev. Horatio Howard began holding services here in Eagle Lake. At that point having a church here in Eagle Lake was only a dream. We started as a mission of St. John’s, Columbus and over the next three or four years, this mission church grew enough to consider building its own structure. We are talking about 15 committed families. A small but dedicated group that had a vision. They were looking for property and money to fulfill the dream they had. A vision to build a Church that was pleasing and in a good location.
When we look at the documents of history we read that “a member of the Roman church offered a lot which was thankfully refused as the location was deemed unfavorable.” A Mr. Tracy of Eagle Lake also offered a lot which was also thankfully declined for the same reason. Two additional pieces of property were also dismissed. Miss A. A. Dunovant, a devout member of the church, bought a lot (somewhere near where Buc-ee’s now stands) and this lot was deemed desirable. These people, some of whom are still connected to this parish, had a vision; a vision that they were not willing to compromise. They refused generous gifts of land that did not fit the vision because they wanted a building and a location that fulfilled a dream.
In 1885 the Church of the Heavenly Rest was planted, and yes, that was the name of our church at one time. The Church of the Heavenly Rest received parish status and built the building of their dreams. No longer was it a mission. The church was self-sustaining.
Some 15 years later, a big wind, a tornado came and ravaged Eagle Lake, demolishing our church into splinters. Not only had they lost their building, but just two months earlier they lost their priest when he died.
This had to be a painful time for such a young church. But the people rose from this destruction with a new vision; a vision that was dramatically different from the first; a vision that probably caused a bit of controversy. Though the reasons are lost to time, this new vision was to raise even more money, to rebuild on a new piece of property, and to change the name of the church. Through this pain and loss, I can only imagine that the people knew that the Lord stood by them and gave them strength to undertake such a grand endeavor.
Here, in 1900 is when the church renamed itself Christ Church. No change is easy and here our ancestors were faced with a great deal of change. They found a new piece of property, the one on which we now stand. Through time, dedication, and money, they rebuilt a new and larger church. Moving forward to 1924, fire breaks out in the attic of the church and spread throughout the building. The structure is deemed a total loss. Once again from loss and destruction, we rebuild as the resurrected people of Christ.
Today we are not faced with the destruction of our church but we have a new vision; a vision to move this parish into the future yet we do not lose sight of our past. We know that Christ is with us. He stands by us and gives us strength. But the Lord is not the only one with us now, in the past, or in the future. We have the saints, all those who came before us are sitting amidst the resurrection. But these saints are not anonymous; these witnesses are sitting here amongst you.
Hannibal Pratt – (on the back window) Started St. John’s, Columbus in 1855. He built Calvary Church, Richmond in 1857 and through his efforts and the people he touched we, Christ Church, were borne out of a dream and a vision.
Over here on your left (in the transept) is a windows inscribed with Jaquelin Bruce. In the late 1800’s, he was a prominent physician here in Eagle Lake and one of the people who offered a parcel of land for the very first building. Even though his offer was refused, he still contributed generously to the efforts.
Mildred Thatcher, also a member of this parish since it was a mission, In 1881 she was in the very first group of people to be confirmed in Eagle Lake. Upon her death, she donated a house that was used as the rectory for 50 years – she was related to Fair Wells.
Over here (by the altar) is the Rev. Lawson the priest who suddenly died just two months before the church was destroyed by the tornado.
And Franklin Reese is memorialized in this window. He, in 1925, designed and built this very building that we now, worship, and pray. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren are members of this parish today.
Each one of these people memorialized in a window was vested in making this parish better than it was before. Making sure it not only endured or survived but thrived for the next generation. We are the beneficiaries of their generosity. It took time, it took dedication, and it took money to do what they did. They poured themselves out like a libation and we have enjoyed their generosity. But their time has come, they fought the good fight, they have finished the race, and now it is our turn to pick up the baton, knowing that the Lord stands by us and gives us strength to carry on with a vision and a dream.
Our vision doesn’t come out of destruction or ashes but out of hope; hope for the future of this parish. Our vision is to keep this parish moving into the future, in which our buildings are not a burden but a joy. A place where we can worship, focusing on the Lord and not the sweltering heat without air-conditioning. A church where we are able to welcome all equally whether they are sure-footed or have difficulties with mobility. This is our vision; a simple vision for our current needs and our desire for the future; a desire for this church to remain the relevant cornerstone of this community.
The only way the vision will come into being is through our faith in God. When we have faith we hear whispers, have visions, and dreams of what God is calling us to do; both as individuals and as the body of Christ. Sometimes these visions pose difficult challenges; ones which we believe we are not capable of achieving. Yet we also know that faithful people are strong people; able to do more than we can imagine because Christ is by our side.
We have started two campaigns; the annual stewardship and the capital campaign. They are not hard to imagine or to believe. They are not so awesome that we have trouble understanding how it can be done. Both of these campaigns can exceed our expectations if we turn to the Lord and recognize his generosity towards us and then offer our generosity to this parish.
Being generous can be hard, it may take steadfast endurance. It takes strength and faith. The people of this parish have overcome much more than we are taking on and I have faith that together with Christ we can accomplish the vision God has set before us as well. This is our dream our vision to make this parish a great place to be for the next 10, 20, or 30 years to come. Why wait? Why postpone our action for some future day? Today is the day to celebrate this parish through generosity and today is the day to celebrate the Lord.