At 1:42 a.m. on Friday, March 2, 2018, the show started.
That’s when I was jolted from sleep with a phone call from the security company who is responsible for monitoring our church.
As soon as the technician told me the location of the alarm, I knew who to blame—that wind.
Up on the third floor of the education wing, when the wind is howling outside, a slight draft occurs. In an old building, that draft is just enough to disturb an overly sensitive contact.
But in truth, what is really taking place is this.
Over time, property managers for Methodist churches gradually learn that the ghosts of the Wesley brothers sometimes race along empty hallways and corridors on windy evenings playing hide and seek.
I know this first hand from previous security calls. There is no other way to explain an elevator door opening in the middle of the night, and no one walks out of the elevator.
Our pals at the National Weather Service had alerted us that we were going to be battered by strong, sustained winds into Saturday. On Thursday and early Friday morning, our staff had been busy making preparations for a 1 p.m. funeral on Friday.
We had lost Don Pierce. A person who had touched many lives with his servant heart. We anticipated a large turn out for Don’s funeral.
Also, we knew that our church is located in a neighborhood with lots of stately trees. Our prior knowledge with power outages from hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, ice storms, and that wind told us to be aware.
Friday was a beautiful blue sky day. Bright sunshine was abundant, but that wind was relentless. As the morning progressed, local news outlets were covering stories about fallen trees and power outages. That wind was having an impact.
The start time for the funeral quickly arrived. The Sanctuary filled. Our bereavement team volunteers were ready to receive family and guests in Trinity Hall following the service with a reception.
The family had organized and created a slide show with wonderful photos capturing Don’s life. This was to be played during the reception. Additionally, they supplemented that presentation with more framed photos displayed on a table in Trinity Hall.
But this service also had some special technical requests from the family. Don’s son Al resides in Boston, Massachusetts. Sadly, like Don had been, Al was in a hard fought battle with cancer. Al was unable to travel to Richmond for his father’s funeral.
In our Sanctuary, we have the capacity to live stream our Sunday morning worship services. The family asked if we would be willing to do this for the funeral service, and of course the answer was yes. One of our members, William Marriott, who has skills working with technology, was planning to be at the funeral and agreed to handle the video board.
With a full Sanctuary, our Music Director, Charles Staples, began quietly playing hymns at the piano as late arrivals hustled to find a seat. Senior Pastor, Larry Lenow, was in the parlor with the family offering final instructions and prayer as they prepared to enter the Sanctuary.
That wind continued its howling outside. Just as the family started their walk down the center aisle, we heard two loud booms. The electrical supply for the building was gone.
Booms like we heard are not a good sound. Usually, this was a sign that a tree or a large limb had harshly encroached a power line, downing the line, and probably blowing a transformer.
Inside the Sanctuary, the service didn’t miss a step. Thanks to some quick thinking, by Andy Duerson, the Pierce’s son-in-law, and others, cell phones were used to send live the progression of the service to Al in Boston.
Outside the Sanctuary, we started to develop a plan for moving people through darkened hallways into the reception area. Staff members, Paula Cadden, Ronnie Johnson, and volunteer, Lynn Berry, began to figure out a response.
Candles were located and placed in the restrooms by Trinity Hall. Lynn remembered that some attending the funeral service had mobility challenges. No power, meant no elevator.
So, it was reasoned the best way to move these people to the reception was to suggest that they return to their cars and drive to the handicapped entrance area of Trinity Hall.
The bereavement team in Trinity Hall was ready for the reception. They too had improvised with candles and cell phone flashlights in the kitchen. Through the Trinity Hall windows, the southern exposure was providing ample sunlight into the room.
During the witness and homily sections of the service, we were able to convey to Charles Staples the plans made to move people out of the Sanctuary. Charles shared this with Larry who made these announcements before concluding the service.
Guests made their way to Trinity Hall without incident. Bright sunlight filled the room.
With teamwork, and a bit of luck the service and reception took place without significant challenges.
It was after 5:30 p.m. before power was restored to a now empty church.
A few remarked that the loss of power was something Don had planned. They reasoned it reflected the sparseness of the lifestyle by the villagers in the mountainous regions of Honduras. This is where Don had led countless medical mission trips through the Friends of Barnabas organization.
Clearly, there was nothing sparse about Don Pierce’s life when it came to his capacity to touch the lives of people at home and in Honduras.
Fortunately for us, his leadership and graceful service will continue to live. Don through his wisdom developed a practical template for future Trinity leaders to follow in making a difference in Honduras.
Yes, that lousy, stinking, good for nothing, rotten, mean, disrespectul, cancer took Don’s last breath.
But, it didn’t take his spirit.
Consider these words from John 3:8:
“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Don was born of the spirit.
That wind of the spirit pushed Don.
We need to let that wind of the spirit push us as well.
That would please Don.