by Dr. Paul Raybon
I went looking at the handwritten minutes of Hominy Baptist Church to see if there was more about the fire of 1923 than what was recorded in the official histories. (Yes, histories, when you’re 210 years old, every generation gets a swipe at telling your story).
The simple entry above captured my attention. “Hominy Baptist Church destroyed by fire March 25, 1923”. I imagine an exhausted church clerk pulling down the great book from a shelf in their home. The church had burned down once before so important papers were kept at the home of the church clerk, not an uncommon practice for rural churches. With clothes still smelling of smoke and ashes, he or she recorded what may have seemed like a final entry.
But there’s a next page. Sadly, no details of the discussion or worship that took place at Candler School, next door to the still smoldering foundation. No mention of the current pastor, who was apparently on study leave at Southern Seminary, but they set up a building committee and called a new pastor.
Rev. John C. Bennett, who had pastored Hominy before, was a noted preacher and brick mason. Those folks were a savvy bunch. Why hire a contractor when you can get a preacher much cheaper? And the new building, complete with electricity and an indoor baptistry, was paid for by the railroad whose flying cinders sparked the blaze. Destroyed by fire? Not hardly! The building was gone, that was all. At least 100 years of amazing ministry was still in front of that congregation.
So when we feel like our souls are filled with the stench of smoke and ashes from the latest congregational conflagration, make note of it, mark the day, and turn the page. When “all” is lost, it can be much easier to take the needed risks to follow God’s call into the future.
These thoughts are from Rev. Dr. Paul Raybon, our partner in ministry in the Western Carolinas, who can help you and your ministry navigate congregational unity and effectiveness. He is Co-Pastor at Hominy Baptist Church near Asheville, NC and works with churches and leaders as a coach and consultant in communication, visioning, administration, and spiritual formation. Contact him for more information about how he can help you.