Once Upon a Time, Long Ago…

I Love Short Stories!

Now don’t get me wrong; I love novels, too. There is nothing like a good story that draws you in and unfolds over time. I’m always intentional to keep a “book going,” meaning that when I finish one, I pick up another. It gives me something to look forward to. Entering the world of the author to find out what happens next is sheer, literary ecstasy.

By analogy, I’d say that a good book is like a long walk on a clear, crisp, Sunday afternoon. You just take it all in and forget about your world and all its problems for a little while. But if a good book is like a relaxing walk in the country, a short story is like a rollercoaster ride. It’s like a sudden burst of excitement. Just as quick as it starts, it’s finished, and you’re left breathless, wanting to “do it again.”

Favorite Stories Stick with Us

One of my favorite short stories of all time is “Death in the Woods” by Sherwood Anderson. After reading it for the first time as a boy, its mysterious depth still captures my imagination all these years later. Another favorite of mine is “To Build a Fire” by Jack London, in which London places the reader inside a perilous Yukon blizzard, trekking in the footsteps of a wayward stranger. And boy, what an ending!

My father was a great storyteller — as was his father. Dad could have you in stitches over some colorful yarn that he’d conjured up “on the fly,” or perhaps something from the vast recesses of his own reading, and yes, even sometimes writing.

He once wrote a short story about an abandoned house, but the story is told from the vantage point of the house itself. In this world, the house was the main character, recalling all the events of its long life: the people it had known, the families that had lived inside of it over many generations—births, deaths, and everything in between. And yes, even a ghost or two shows up from time to time.

If These Walls Could Talk!

As I recall that story now, I think of our church. For just a moment, consider the building called “Glenfield, LaMission,” and soon to be “New Albany UMC.” If you could ask this building to tell its life story, what would it say?

Once upon a time, long ago — in a different age — a group of people came together with an idea to start a church. And they did! They placed my footings, established my corner stones, stretched my beams, built my walls, and raised my steeple. They placed their sacred objects inside of me, their crosses, their pulpit, their altar . . . They invoked the Holy Spirit to fill me. They loved me and cared for me like no other. Souls were saved inside of me. Families blossomed and grew. The world was touched by what the people inside of me were doing. They were my life blood, my inward parts, my reason for being.

But as one generation faded into another, the world changed. People grew to be less caring, more hard-hearted, and more distant. The world changes people in that way. Young families came and went. The people who were left did their best to keep me healthy, but their fading memories and aching bones got the best of them. In time, cobwebs appeared in corners of all my rooms. Mice nested inside of my walls. Insects lurked in the dark recesses of every crack and crevice. The laughter of children, the singing of hymns, the God praises of people joining the heavenly chorus turned to musty silence.

To be forgotten about is the loneliest feeling in the world.

But in time…things began to change. One day, people came again — new people. Slowly at first, and then more, and then even more! The laughter of children echoed up and down the halls; boisterous, laughing children. Once again little handprints became the art that adorned my walls, and little feet tracked sneaker prints on my floors. Signs of life! The cobwebs and dust were swept away. There are no more ghosts!

 Slowly at first, and then more and more, people entered my doors and began to sing. Their sacred objects took on a new and different luster. Once again, I was filled to the point of overflowing with the Holy Spirit. I’m loved again. I’m cared for again. Lives are being changed again, and families are blossoming and growing again. My life blood has been renewed!

There’s More to Our Story

I’m certain the story of this church is much more extensive. If only these walls could talk…what would they teach us about past lessons learned? What advice would these walls give us about the future, about what to do as a church and about what not to do? What will be our story a hundred years from now when those of us present today will have long since been gone?

Once upon a time, long ago — in a different age — a group of people came together with an idea to start a church. And they did! It’s still a church that represents the Love of Christ throughout the world! It’s still a church where everyone is loved! The God praises of people joining the heavenly chorus reaches into the depths of the universe itself! This church is still going strong! This church still matters!

And so, may our story continue . . .