For the past several weeks, on top of all the regular "recapture" that goes into emerging from Holy Week and Easter, I have been walking with the awareness that Trinity Church is approaching the 10th anniversary of the fire of 1998. That tragic and powerful moment transformed this parish, and we have been learning and growing in that transformation ever since. I have only been a part of this parish's life for three years of those 10. Some see it from the other side of the mountain of time...as one year out of 15, or 20, or even 60.
And some have only just arrived.
Still, as I have served here, images and memories of that fire have been offered like gifts. The pictures of the ravaged hall, school and sanctuary are in my office. The stories told, of the sight of the flames, of the smell of smoke and wet wood...of the brave rescues of furnishings and silver...of the moments of prayer, sorrow, loss and then resolve to rebuild and to then build a church that was everything that was...and maybe perhaps something a little more all fill my mind.
But, the image that has most affected me was the gift of Dave Benner gave me as I visited him after his return home from Ohio after heart surgery. We talked of the fire, and the ways that the vestry is considering the observance of the anniversary...and Dave started to talk about the amazing ability of plant life to recover from trauma.
There is a Japanese maple that stands just outside the entrance to McArthur Hall. It was there when the fire took the building that stands not 20 feet from it. "The heat was incredible," said Dave. "That poor tree was just cooked. I was really worried that we would lose it.
"But, with care, and I go up to make sure the dead wood is trimmed away, the scars built up over time and the tree healed.
"It's almost back."
I drove back up to the church after our visit and went over to the maple to see what he had been talking about. The amazing thing is that I have served this church for three years, and I have never seen the way that tree was affected. From a particular angle, you can see the dark marks, the distortion and the damage the fire worked on living matter. I have seen its mark on furniture, on light fixtures, on books and on pieces of music that were rescued. I have seen its mark on the souls of those who were there to experience it...
But that day was the first time I saw how one tree, just by the nature God gave it, has grown and even flourished. 10 years later and it still bears the scars...but it is alive.
As the weeks pass, I pray that we all have an opportunity to see those moments where life has pushed up, back and into our experience as church. God gives the growth. Amen.