I couldn't help but think of the Lent, Easter, Pentecost cycle as I prepared to worship this morning with the Mount Carmel United Methodist Church in their first service after the loss of their sanctuary on Wednesday. As you know, this holy season in the life of the church began with Ash Wednesday and will conclude on Sunday, June 8 with the celebration of Pentecost. In this "great reversal" we start with ashes and end with fire. Our mortal lives have new life breathed into them through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, as we are well aware, this is not how we experience things in our everyday life. Gathered with members of the Mount Carmel congregation, we watched, shocked, as fire consumed their place of worship, reducing it to ashes last week. Yet today, amid some tears and collective grief, the community affirmed their faith in the living God and began the process of recovery and rebuilding. Literally from the ashes, a new fire will burn in the lives of those who are part of the Mount Carmel congregation. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they will witness anew to God's love in their community and beyond.
Thank you for your concern for our sister congregation in the Pensacola District. So many of you have contacted my office asking how you can help Mount Carmel in their time of need. We are receiving donations at the District Office that we will send to Mount Carmel in the days ahead for those that would like to make a contribution. They will be worshiping on a temporary basis at old Cornerstone Christian Church in Jay. Cokesbury, the denominational publishing house, is helping with materials through their Cokesbury Cares program. Should there be a need for other supplies, we will notify you through the District Office. Please continue to keep the congregation in your prayers.
As Dr. Lennie Howard shared, the work of the church and the ministry of the church goes on. And I would share with you that we are still engaged in flood recovery efforts in Gulf Breeze and Pensacola. And even as we are the benefactors of the generosity of others, we have opportunity to give through our conference initiative, Imagine No Malaria. At annual conference, there will be four special offerings received to benefit the Ministerial Education Fund, Imagine No Malaria, the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Fund, and an offering to benefit those affected by the flooding in our district and the Baypines District, as well as the Mount Carmel Church.
My prayer for us this week is that God will take the ashes of all of our lives and breathe the fire of the Spirit into our hearts and into the lives of our churches throughout the Pensacola District as we seek to serve Christ in our communities and indeed throughout the world. Thank you for your leadership! I am grateful for each of you!
Blessings and peace,