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The Church and It's People
An old skeleton key slid into the rusty lock of the old church door and as it did the young preacher breathed a prayer for help from above. The tired, warped door resisted at first, but under continued pressure it suddenly flew open flooding the one-room sanctuary with sunlight for the first time in nearly twenty years!
Dust and debris were scattered over the floor and pews. The long stove-pipe from the pot-bellied stove in the middle of the floor hung at a crazy angle from the flue. The floor was strewn with the bodies of seven dead blackbirds, who having found their way in could not find their way out. A battered hymn book still leaned over the keys of the old foot pumped organ and an attempt to activate this once melodious machine resulted in clouds of dust filling the musty air. But the old altar-rail was still intact and to it the preacher and his faith wife made their way. If this place was to be rebuilt and a testimony for the Lord established here, it would take all the power of God through the Holy Spirit to do it and this was the place to start. “Dear Lord,” the preacher prayed, “Begin in me!”
From his knees the young preacher looked towards the pulpit and noted there an old water-stained pulpit Bible. Curiously, he approached the sacred desk and there noted that the Holy Book was opened at Second Chronicles chapter seven. Underlined was verse fourteen: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways: then, will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. He knew then the text for his first sermon in this place of opportunity. It would now be up to one and GOD!
Monday (First Week In March 1950)
2 Chronicles 29:5—”Sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place.”
Boldly the call went forth throughout the town…”the little white mission is being reopened…all are invited to attend.” The first prayer meeting was to be held on Wednesday night and the place had yet to be made ready. A handful of saints gathered to prepare a place of worship on Monday night. Mary Gilbert, who with her husband had once given away their home to a family who had been burned out; Grace McKibben and her husband, William, who had been in that meeting when the message “One and God” had been preached; the preacher and his wife, Clara, all clad in work clothes and together they scrubbed and dusted and cleaned. In one corner, down on her knees, Grace McKibben sang as she scrubbed the floor with an old fashioned scrub brush, “Living for Jesus, a life that is true, striving to please Him in all that I do.” Two weeks later, at the age of 56, she was summoned to the presence of the King and we felt honored that she was able to answer the call.
While the men repaired the broken panes of glass, the women swept and dusted the place. The rusty stove pipe was replaced with a new shiny black one. A handful of old hymn books were found in one corner and placed about the pews. This was to be the center of operations and much had to be done to make it presentable and useable. The chimneys of the old oil lamps on swivel-brackets along the wall had to be made clean for although the electricity had been turned back on, the constant threat of coastal storms required a “spare” source of light. The entrance to the church consisted of a pair of stairs from the right and the left which brought one to a platform before the twin doors of the vestibule. They opened inward and revealed a small weather-stained vestibule which permitted entrance to the sanctuary by way of a pair of swinging doors. On the left of the vestibule in a small alcove was a cast-iron sink presided over by a now defunct pitcher pump. Perhaps this had been the source of water for the congregation during the years past. The handle of the pump brought dry, rusty complaints as it was encouraged to produce something to prove that there was a fountain below. Later with new leather washers, a bit of oil, and a great deal of priming, it was to bring forth murky waters from somewhere down below…filled with baby eels, apparently a product of the wetlands across the street.
A test pull on the bell rope brought the rope down upon them for it could not stand the strain of neglect any longer. And now the realization that if the bell was to speak forth and remind the neighborhood that “there is a place of quiet rest”, someone had to climb up and loosen the rust which bound it to itself. Bill McKibben handled that job real well, for before he had finished the kids of the neighborhood had gathered and asked, “Hey, whatja doin’?” The corner sounded like a train has just pulled into the station!
The sanctuary was about thirty feet square with an altar rail up
front (without kneeling pads) and a slightly elevated platform for the preacher
to “hold forth” from. The pews were old fashioned straight-back hard benches. No
easy seats for the message. And the hardwood was sufficient to make the listener
squirm. The pews and the floor had a reddish color and they were to learn in the
not-too-distant-future what had been used to coat the floor and pews. It turned
out that one of the fishermen had gotten a donation of “red-lead” bottom paint
from the fish factory. Problem is that red-lead is designed not to completely
dry. But enough for now…it was decided that Tuesday evening would be spent in
cleaning the church yard “so that folks would know that we are home” and after
prayer they gathered the emblems of their trades: mops, brushes, buckets and
dirty faces and set their sight towards a night of rest.
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