Quinn G. Caldwell
"They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat . . ." - Isaiah 65:21-22
Isaiah's words sound nice, but the fact is, if you build to last, somebody else is going to inhabit your house one day.
Take your church building; aren't you living in a house somebody else built? Whether we like it or not, generation follows generation, and each one takes over in the end what the previous ones left behind. What kind of house is the next generation of your church going to find when they move in? Is it well-maintained? Cleaned and loved? Are they going to have to spend forever getting rid of all the old crap you've let accumulate and ripping down the bulletin boards that you've left hanging there with the same stuff on them for the last twenty years?
Or will they discover that somebody figured out how to organize themselves so that the back of the Sanctuary got decluttered regularly and the sills of the stained-glass windows got de-grimed every once in a while? Will they find that you had the discipline to repair broken furniture, to tear down the year-old notices and repaint the hallway once a decade?
Will they move into a house that somebody loved and cared for as if it actually mattered, or will they find a place that looks like it was owned by a hoarder with a cat problem?
Like it or not, somebody else is going to inhabit your house of worship sooner or later. Decide now what you want them to think of you—and God—when they do.
God, you provide every shelter house, including the one in which I worship. Help me to care for mine as if I were grateful. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Pastor and Teacher at Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC, in Syracuse, New York, and co-editor, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.