November 27, 2020
The Church Is Not A Building

Kristin Hicks

I have always been a church girl. Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska my church, Westminster Presbyterian was a block and a half from my house. After my parents' divorce, the church became “my place” to go where everything was going to be ok, even when it did not feel that way at home.

I remember where I sat in the church. I was a left side towards the front row girl. I can to this day still see vividly the trio of beautiful stained-glass windows that were the focal point at the front of the beautiful sanctuary much like our beautiful rose window in our APC sanctuary.  
My childhood church, Westminster Presbyterian in Lincoln, Nebraska.  
One of the reasons I love being in church is the sense of peace and the feeling of God’s presence that I feel every time I am in the sanctuary. Not being able to worship together in the sanctuary has been one of the hardest parts of this pandemic. I have been missing it so much lately and after talking with others have wondered recently if it is time to go ahead and go back to inside worship at APC. I have wondered how much longer do we need to wait? I long for the comfort and familiarity of the organ, the full choir and especially communion with all of us together. I wonder if we will lose members if we do not get back soon. I even know that many friends in other churches have returned to in person worship. 

That wonder stopped this past Friday, a week ago, when we got word that my sister-in-law, who is one year older than I am (I am 50), was admitted to the hospital in Cary, North Carolina extremely sick with Covid. The sudden headache that she had complained about from a few days before had now morphed into an inability to walk more than 10 steps without collapsing and she was having difficulty breathing on her own. She is one of the lucky few who was given emergency approval for an infusion of experimental monoclonal antibodies along with the other familiar treatments of remdesivir and dexamethasone. She has made slow progress and is currently celebrating being able to brush her own teeth and go to the bathroom on her own.  

When people asked her where she thinks she was exposed she says she does not know and that she has been wearing her mask, just as she has been told. Other than the grocery store, one of the only other places that she has gone is to her church, which recently, in early October, returned to in person services. As I learned of this information, I was immediately so thankful that our church has been cautious about returning to in person worship. I am so grateful for the ability to worship outside in our drive-in worship and for all the work that has gone into that and our wonderful virtual services. For now, until it is safe, I will be thankful to see your smiles and faces through your car windows and on my computer screen. I look forward to the time when things go back to normal but will remember what is most important is not the building but all of you, who are so dear to me, my church family.  

The Christian educator in me is reminded of a song I learned from my childhood church family we should sing about now...

I am the church! You are the church! 
We are the church together! 
All who follow Jesus, 
all around the world! 
Yes, we're the church together! 
The church is not a building; 
the church is not a steeple; 
the church is not a resting place; 
the church is a people. 
A prayer of shelter and shadow
From the book of Daily Prayer
with the Corrymeela Community, By Padraig O Tuama 
Ar scath a cheile a mhaireas na daoine. 

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.
It is in the shadow of each other that the people live.

We know sometimes we are alone,
and sometimes we are in community. 

Sometimes we are in shadow,
and sometimes we are surrounded by shelter. 

Sometimes we feel like exiles –
in our land, in our languages and in our bodies.
And sometimes we feel surrounded by welcome. 

As we seek to be human together,
may we share the things that do not fade:
generosity, truth-telling, silence, respect, and love.  

And may the power we share
be for the good of all. 

We honor God, the source of this rich life.
And we honor each other, story-full and lovely. 

Whether in our shadow or in our shelter,
may we live well,
and fully
with each other.
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009
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