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Before the fire
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Two moments stick out in my mind now.

In one, I was sitting in the front, over on the “stage left” side of the sanctuary, in one of the seats reserved for the handicapped. I would only sit there on Sundays when I was ushering, so I had easy access to the front exit doors and could also see most of the rest of the congregation and easily discern if my help was needed elsewhere in the room. Pastor was preaching, but I was distracted by the movement of the choir director’s hands. The organ console sat on the altar, behind where Pastor stood at the rostrum, the back of the instrument facing the choir behind it. From where I was sitting, I had a good side view of the organ keys, and I could see the choir director, Chris, silently playing a song on them. Was he rehearsing the hymn we were going to sing right after the sermon? Playing some other song that he couldn’t get out of his head that day? Whatever the reason, the silent movement of his fingers on the black and whites was mesmerizing. In all the second Sundays I’d been sitting there during Pastor’s sermons, I never noticed Chris doing that. Now that I know it was the last Sunday we were all in that sanctuary before the fire–the day before the fire–it’s one of my last memories of Chris proudly sitting at that beloved, historic organ. And it’s extra bittersweet, since I now also know the organ is a total loss.

The other moment is on video, as I wasn’t at church to witness it myself. It was the Martin Luther King Day of Service and the morning after Chris’s silent hymn. Participants were gathered in the sanctuary before the cleaning began, and Pastor was standing at the other rostrum, beaming and leading the group in a rousing rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.” The video taker panned back and forth between the people in the pews and Pastor–with a couple of stops in between at 2 bright blue plastic buckets and a pile of neatly folded, gleaming white rags on the altar steps near the rostrum. It’s a happy moment, but I’ve only been able to watch it once. The person who posted it on Facebook likely has no idea yet of its dark irony. Only the leaders of the church (of which I am one) knows that the spontaneous combustion of those rags, soaked with linseed oil and carelessly piled together in those 2 buckets, started the fire that destroyed our sanctuary just 10 hours later. The song they were singing is pretty ironic, too, as every raging fire starts with a little light.


Loved this …..the last line is killer…..xx

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