Sunday, February 25 was going to be a busy morning at our church.
We were having two informational breakfast sessions for our annual stewardship campaign.
When I opened the building around 5:45, I initially spent a bit of time in Trinity Hall rechecking the set up for the breakfast.
Next, I started working my way through the building— unlocking doors, turning on a few lights, and checking the temperament of our boilers.
I had walked through the lobby at the Stuart Hall Road entrance to the Sanctuary. I took a few steps into the Sanctuary when I heard this horrible noise behind me.
I wondered if the good Lord had finally had enough of me, or maybe a grumpy student from my past was stopping by with a greeting.
I stepped back into the foyer, and I saw a cloud of dust. I looked to my left at the staircase and saw it was covered in debris. Then my eyes scanned upward where I could see that a 4×4 foot section of the ceiling was missing.
Immediately, I was thinking, God what in the world are you trying to do to me? It’s not like I don’t have anything else going on this morning.
Then, I was looking for someone to blame besides God. And I settled on the music director for our church, Dr. Charles Staples.
For years, some in the congregation have complained that Dr. Staples plays the organ too loud. So my theory is that all of those sound waves from an organ played too loudly finally conspired with Mr. Newton. This resulted in the ceiling saying— “I’ve had enough of this vibration nonsense, I’m going to collapse.”
Something pulled me out of my blame game daydream, and I started figuring out what I needed to do.
I shut doors to slow down the dust. Opened an exterior door and put a box fan in it to pull out the dusty air.
Then I worked to seal off access to the stairwell in the lobby and at the balcony entrance. Next, I made a quick call to our senior pastor, Larry Lenow, to let him know he needed a hard hat when he entered the building.
When Larry arrived, we agreed not to cleanup the debris. We opted to focus on getting us through our Sunday morning plans.
As the congregation started to arrive, there were lots of questions. Some speculated that I had conspired to have the ceiling collapse just in time for the stewardship breakfast. Jokingly, Larry even insinuated that line of thought in his morning announcements.
Well, we made it through the morning with no more rumblings from the ceiling. On Monday, we made arrangements to have the ceiling material tested for the fearful “a” word— asbestos. Lucky for us, the test came back negative.
Later in the week, with dust masks on, we cleaned up and bagged the debris. Even though, we can see some fissures in the remaining ceiling, no more plaster came tumbling down.
Perhaps, when we take the old ceiling down, we might discover why it decided to collapse. I don’t think God, or the organ being played loudly made the ceiling take a downward tumble.
But, I do think something can be said about God’s timing. For whatever reason, the ceiling decided to collapse with no one standing under it. Clearly, significant injuries would have occurred if people had been on the staircase when the ceiling mumbled internally— I’ve had enough. I am thankful we had no injuries.
I often wonder what is in God’s timing. We live in an impatient world. Nanoseconds dominate. I don’t believe God is on nanoseconds time.
Reminds me of Acts 1:7: “Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority.”
Can’t be much clearer—it isn’t for me to know what is in God’s timing. But, I know I will continue to be curious.
This quote from Lailah Gifty Akita reaffirms the wisdom from Acts: “We can neither hurry nor hasten the works of God.”
And if that’s the case, it becomes even more important for me to hold on to these words from Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”