LITTLE MOUNTAIN — Hundreds filled Mt. Tabor Lutheran Church in Little Mountain on Saturday night as the faith community turned out in support of one of its own — St. Paul Lutheran Church in Pomaria.
They gathered to proclaim that God’s promises were just as true that night as they were on Thursday morning when fire destroyed St. Paul’s sanctuary and educational building.
“We were glad to (host the service),” said Mt. Tabor Pastor John Stoudemayer. “It is an important church to me, too. I did my first year of field work there.”
He choked back tears as he preached a sermon that mentioned the scorched stones, the pulpit, font and altar lost, the memories carried away. He mentioned how generations of people marked passages of lives from births and marriages to funerals.
“During my first year of internship, Pastor Delano Ricard, who supervised my internship, gave me the opportunity to preach at St. Paul the Sunday after Thanksgiving,” he said.
It turned out to be the only time his late father heard Stoudemayer preach.
He spoke Saturday of the importance of church buildings as being concrete representations of the abstract concept of faith and mentioned how he used the holy space at the altar when teaching confirmation students how God could be all places at all times. If they ever doubted His presence, he told them, the one place they could be sure to find Him was at the altar as they knelt in prayer.
“To lose that visible expression of faith hurts, but the fire is not the last word,” he said. “New buildings will rise out of the ashes. They, too, will have their own memories as people gather and as the generations go on, St. Paul will be there.”
Other area ministers and many parishioners turned out for the worship service that provided a time for remembrance and support.
“Because we have such a close knit community, this congregation should not have to worry about support, especially from congregations (nearby) like Bachman Chapel and St. Philips because many years ago we shared a pastor together,” said the Rev. Terry Amick of St. Philip’s Lutheran Church. “We intend to give any and all support that we can to help St. Paul get back on its feet.”
The sermon and hymns such as “The Church’s One Foundation,” “Built on a Rock the Church Shall Stand” and “A Mighty Fortress” reinforced what lifelong St. Paul Lutheran Church member Jerry Richardson said about the fire: “Right now what we see is the fire as a tragedy, but eventually we will realize it is an opportunity to build,” he said.
People from as far away as North Dakota sent emails or posted on Facebook to offer support both in prayer and financially. Many posts by Sheriff Lee Foster were touching to members, some of whom were former classmates and are friends with the sheriff. Foster is a volunteer firefighter and was on the scene of the fire.
Member Donna Werts spoke of television coverage where the anchors spoke of St. Paul’s Sunday worship service, noting that those there would feel the spirit and issuing an invitation for people to come.
For more information about the church’s rebuilding efforts, visit St. Paul Pomaria on Facebook or go to www.stpaulpomaria.com.