Pandemic Ponderings

of the General Presbyter of the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley

March 14, 2022


Dear friends,

Saturday, I was attending the memorial service for Rebecca Mann whose death following heart surgery, has saddened us greatly. Jonathan Yarboro led a beautiful service using Rebecca’s own words from her sermons. I was seated at the reception by a distant member of the family. He was an elder at a church in South Carolina. When he found out my role, he asked what we were seeing in terms of church attendance since the pandemic. I shared that many of our pastors are concerned with how relatively few people had physically returned to worship. He admitted that, although he had been very active in the church, he hasn’t really returned to worship once they were back physically in the sanctuary. “Are you still concerned with COVID?” I asked. “No,” he said, “I just got out of the habit. I kind of like my relaxed Sunday mornings now.” Later that evening I happened on the following story and offer it here to whoever needs to hear it.


Fiery Sermon. Orville Grace Brethren.


A member of the church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the minister decided to visit this member of the congregation.


It was a chilly evening. The minister found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his minister’s visit, the man welcomed him in and, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited.


The minister made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the minister took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent.


The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead.


Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The minister glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember, and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately, it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.


As the minister reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, “Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I will be back in church next Sunday.”



As ever in prayer,




Please keep your colleagues in the presbytery in prayer as we embark on our Racial Justice Pilgrimage beginning Thursday.

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