“You look different with your clothes on.”
That’s not a normal faith-based introduction line. But for some folks of St. Stephen’s, it’s the natural outgrowth of an act of responding through faith.
In December 2015, the building used by New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church was burned to the ground. The congregation from the Vandever Avenue neighborhood was left homeless just before Christmas. They made temporary arrangements for worship in December and January.
Sharon, a member of the St. Stephen’s congregation, saw a television news story about the arson. She didn't just watch the news story. She responded with the knowledge that St. Stephen's had space to offer. She contacted Chuck, who was president of the congregation at the time.
Chuck responded and contacted Rev. C. Eugene Brocks, the minister of New Jerusalem, to offer his congregation the use of our chapel space on Sunday morning.
The St. Stephen's Congregation Council said yes, let’s do it.
Rev. Brocks responded to this offer from an unknown congregation on the other side of town and said yes.
The Holy Spirit was present, and everyone involved responded with “Yes, this is what we are called to do in God’s name.”
In February, New Jerusalem began worshiping in the chapel space at St. Stephen’s. The two congregations began to meet at fellowship time following worship. The congregations have worshiped with each other to experience the different worship styles.
And then the Holy Spirit stepped in again, and created another opportunity for both congregations to respond through faith.
Sonia and Gary, both from St. Stephen’s, participate in activities at Kirkwood Fitness Center. So does Marvin from New Jerusalem. They recognized each other in this non-church setting.
And thus the greeting, “You look different with your clothes on.” (For the record, Sonia always has her swim suit on. We can’t vouch for anyone’s state of dress in the men’s steam room.)
Hearing the comment makes one smile and chuckle. And to those standing nearby with questioning eyebrows, it raises the perfect opportunity to say “We see each other on Sunday mornings,” and then explain the unique situation we have created with two very different congregations worshiping in the same building on Sundays.
It’s an incredible chain of events that resulted from Sharon’s simple act of responding through faith.
It’s like a stone rolling down a hill. Each faithful response to God’s presence in our lives gains momentum as others are similarly moved to respond.
- Ann Warner