I received an email yesterday afternoon with some bad news. Longbranch Community Church, our brothers and sisters to the south, was the victim of a vicious vandalism attack Friday night. I threw on a coat and headed down to see if we could offer any assistance. It was worse than I imagined, worse than can be described. Most windows shattered, tables overturned, bookshelves thrown to the ground, fire extinguishers emptied in the office, broken glass everywhere, doors punched through, holes hammered into walls, "I Am the Devil" written in whipped cream on a table. Every room was affected. Broken glass was showered over the floors, and out into the parking lot. It was horrendous.
Lakebay had a similar experience a dozen or more years ago, a fact some of the Longbranch people remembered. We now had a story in common. Unfortunately.
But they had some people there just beginning the process of cleaning up. And I made a few phone calls, and they made some phone calls, and word got out, and a dozen of their people showed up, and 8-10 Lakebay people showed up with work gloves and willing hearts, and a local glass guy made an emergency visit, and the local diner (Lulu's Homeport) brought some soup and sandwiches. And the glass was cleared out, bookshelves were set back up, trash cans were run off to dumpsters in the area, floors were mopped and vacuumed, and I realized in the midst of it that people were having a good time. They were laughing. They were getting to know each other, and, this being a small community, everyone was figuring out all the connections they had with each other. Young people and old were on their hands and knees picking up glass shards and scrubbing tables. Men were up on ladders securing the broken windows with plywood.
Yes, more people came as they heard the news, and there were tears and cries of shock and anger. But a community developed. People gave up their Saturday evening to serve those who were in the midst of a tragedy. And before you knew it. . .we all shared dinner together in a cleaned-up fellowship hall. And prayers were said for victim and perpetrator alike. And love and service ruled the day. There weren't a group a churches gathered together; instead, the singular body of Christ showed up in sacrificial service. It was a beautiful sight to behold, and (I think even the Longbranch folks would agree) a marvelous blessing was borne out of a vicious attack.
A couple other items of interest:
- the vandals left the sanctuary untouched, which seems both a blessing and a little suspicious
- the vandals left some evidence behind. Perhaps enough to point a pretty sure finger at them.
- while we grieve for Longbranch Church, we also recognize the vandals hit the Longbranch Improvement Club first. They have their own pain and mess to deal with
- At least one Longbranch Church member pointed out to me, with a sure sense of irony, that the lectionary text for this morning from Luke 12 reads: "If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into."