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Live in such a way that all will choose light, life

by Sam Askew

Picture this: An average town or rural church in Virginia, early 1900s.

The building consisted of a sanctuary. The land was donated. Utility bills were for lighting and heat on Sundays, the only day the building was in use. Air conditioning consisted of open doors and windows supplemented by cardboard fans on popsicle sticks could be found in the pew racks advertising the funeral home or drugstore. Volunteers cleaned the church, mowed the grass, maintained the building, directed the choir and played the organ and piano.

Sunday school was taught with Bible in hand and the creative gifts of the teacher rather than purchased curriculum. There were no printed bulletins as hymn numbers were placed on a board and announced as needed and the order of worship and prayers were found in the hymnal. The pastor likely served more than one congregation and was provided a house, utilities, small salary and an annual “pounding” to fill his pantry and feed his family (pounds of sugar, meats, flour, jellies, beans).

Families were large. Sanctuaries were full and were never locked. People knew their neighbors and their children and they slept secure at night. Although with its challenges to the peace, the family spats that spilled over into churches, the suspicious activities at the gas station and pool hall, life was good. The average person did not go on a vacation or away from home unless there was a death, wedding, a special family gathering in another part of the state. The costs to live the “good” life was challenging yet manageable if one were frugal.

There was a time when church was both the religious and social gathering place, especially if it owned a social hall or picnic shelter. The church did not have to compete with youth sports, shopping or family recreation. The ministry was to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and to educate members in understanding the Bible. Members provided food for families in mourning, they assisted with home and farm chores for those who were sick, they nurtured the aging and cared for the widow and orphan. Studies, fellowship and committee meeting were held in homes. Children were instructed how to live a Christian life through Scripture, songs and the witness of their church family.

The question so often asked today concerns the violence we continue to see taking place on streets, in churches, in schools, sidewalks. The violence is a result of the darkness of evil that has filled the minds and hearts of far too many individuals. The violence is directed randomly so that people become fearful of their daily surroundings. The physical instruments used are not the problem. The problem exists in the hearts and minds of hurt and burdened lives.

Healing the burdens and hurting hearts and minds is the ministry of the Church. The word of God found in Scripture remains a powerful resource to change lives in ways that lead to peace. Yet, the Church is nothing without people. Consider how just one hour a week in song, prayer, praise and fellowship with the family of God would make a difference. For the light of the world is greater than the darkness that seeks to make us fearful. To designate time to help in restoring health to our bodies we gladly give. Is not time spent in efforts to bring healing to a burdened heart and mind equally important?

We cannot return to the “good ole days” in terms of health care, the cost of goods or the number of hours we must work to earn a living off one salary. We can return to the ideal that all persons are expected to hold themselves accountable to creation in their use of the freedoms that we hold as inalienable rights. God has created and given to us the responsibility to choose good over evil. Evil is always the easier choice, but in choosing evil we place ourselves in bondage to fear. Let us live in such a way that all will choose light and life!

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

– II Corinthians 9:6

Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Sam

SAM ASKEW is the pastor of Windsor Congregational Christian Church. Contact him at 242-4794.