And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
“Every church must find its Katrina.”
These words were spoken by the Rev. Lekisha Reed at the recent Black Church Convocation I attended in Atlanta. The context of her remarks were born out of her frustration in pastoring an unmotivated and lethargic congregation in Louisiana until Hurricane Katrina delivered a devastating visit to their community. The supportive and overwhelming response by the church and the community brought revival and new life as they came together and rediscovered God’s purpose.
Rev. Reed’s words came to mind on a Friday night as I sat in the sanctuary of Waverly United Methodist Church to observe the one year anniversary of the tornado that ripped through our small town, taking three beautiful lives. On February 24, 2016 a violent column of air ripped a nine-mile path without passion or prejudice, yet it also seemed to rip open other wounds that divided our community. On February 24, 2017, it was apparent that something had changed.
The worship service was a celebration of how both the community and the church responded to a crisis. Romans 8:28 came to mind as we witnessed how God brought so much good out of so much pain. The testimonies of support, help and love were especially evident as Trineka Springfield, who lost her son, brother and fiancé to the storm, stood and read the scriptures for the service. Perhaps the biggest miracle of all was the racially diverse congregation that worshipped as one body.
Sometimes our “Katrina” finds us, catches us by surprise and the choice to respond is clear. In fact, it’s usually in great disasters, like Hurricane Katrina or 911, that we become the people we are supposed to be all the time. However, other times we must be more intentional about finding our Katrina. There is so much pain and devastated lives in all our communities. The question is how well we are listening to that pain. Katrinas can come disguised as racism, poverty, or any form of injustice. Whether the disaster is natural or human-made the church is called to be the presence of Jesus in the midst of the storm.
More and more I believe that changing the course of decline in our churches has a lot to do with finding our Katrinas and re-engaging our communities. Not just offering handouts, but partnerships that develop lasting relationships and therefore, lasting changes in people’s lives. When we re-engage our communities, we rediscover how God has each of us in a particular place for a particular purpose. If the church is be the literal body of Christ (you see, I do take some things literally), we must be incarnational in the places we are planted. We must be the “word made flesh” and dwell among them.
Waverly found its Katrina. It wasn’t just a killer tornado, as much as the racism and division that has plagued and polarized our community. A storm brought us closer together and last Friday night I thought I caught a glimpse of a fresh vision offering hope. In that moment in time there was no more “them” and “us,” there was only “US!”
Where is the “Katrina” in your neighborhood?
By the way, Trineka Springfield has volunteered to open her new home that we are refurbishing to begin a new “House Church” for those who have been disenfranchised by the church. And the joy-filled hits just keep on coming!