Early last Sunday morning the little old church in a neighboring town burned down. It was such a sweet little church, built in the 1800's. Even though it was a little church in a small village, it had a big following of dedicated people who came from miles around to attend.
The church had one front door, and the pulpit was also at the front. The story goes that it was built that way to shame anyone who came in late. There was no back door until, in the 1920's, when there was a double wedding scheduled. The fathers of the brides cut a door in the back so the brides could walk down the aisles.
It was a simple church, heated with 2 wood stoves. Painted wooden pews, lovely old victorian chairs and a walnut pulpit in the front. Painted in soft green, it gave a lovely sense of serenity. Hanging over the pulpit was a hand-made quilt called the loving quilt, which was loaned to anyone who was in need of comfort or suffering ill health.
I drove by there today to take a picture, and it is bulldozed now, so there was nothing to see. But the picture in the paper showed the side beams and much of the facade blackened, but still standing like a ghostly shape in ash.
The pastor, a dedicated, sincere man, welcomed members into the parish house and promised to rebuild, somehow. A parishioner donated one of her hand-made quilts to be the next loving quilt. I don't doubt that the rebuilding has already started.
This is a little story in the light of the suffering of the world, but it's a huge story to the people in the small community of the church. Even though I've been a practicing Buddhist for 34 years, it touches me too.
The suffering in Haiti and Afghanistan and elsewhere seems small from our living rooms in the big world, but it is everything to the people in those communities, their families, their neighbors. I pray that we can keep our hearts open, no matter who or where we are. This is what humanism is all about.