Beacon Hill Is Bleeding
Rev. Peter E. Bauer
As I mentioned in a previous blog posting ("What Do You Do When The Beacon Goes Out?"), the closing of Beacon Hill Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) was a difficult experience for all concerned.
A friend of mine sent me these photos and it really underscores even more how desolate the landscape looks when you close a church.
Note in pictures number one and two, that the cement marker that identified the church and its former pastor is now gone. Also note that the memorial bricks that formed the walkway entrance to the church are now also gone. If you notice in picture number three, you can still see the Cross on top of the church steeple. Other than that, you might not notice that the building was, at one time, a thriving church.
Of course, what jumps out at you in picture number three is the display of red spray paint all over the realtor's sign that is posted in front of the church.
I thought when I saw this picture. "Haven't the people in this congregation and this building gone through enough suffering?"
On the eve of the final "Celebration" service which was held in September 2014, thieves broke into the church the night before the service and stole the public address system. Two weeks later, thieves again managed to break into the adjacent Michigan building and pry out and pilfer two beautiful stained glass windows from the second floor, not without doing structural damage to the window frames.
Now, we have red paint, dare I say red blood, being splattered on the sign advertising the building to be sold. This is hardly a Lazarus moment. Rather it more reminiscent of buzzards hovering over a dead carcass and then descending to devour the entrails. As my good clinical social worker friend has noted on more than one occasion, "They're not even letting the body get cold."
What is profound to me is that this is happening during the season of Lent, this time in which we reflect upon the life of Jesus, and the meaning that Jesus' life and teachings may provide for us now.
Yes, we are all always dying and being born.
Bob Dylan said it well: "He who is not busy being born is busy dying."
Joni Mitchell also observed that the living process is always "death and birth, death and birth. "
I keep telling myself these messages when I look at these pictures, but I still feel a lot of pain. My friends and former congregants at Beacon Hill Presbyterian Church are also still feeling a lot of pain.
Who wouldn't when it's out on the street in full display?
As The Rolling Stones would say, "Love and misery jamming side by side on the stage."
So where do you go from the sight of death?
The Gospel of Mark tells us that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices so that they could anoint the body of Jesus before what would be later declared as the first Easter Day. (Mark 16:1)
Note that it is the women and not the men who are cleaning up the mess. They were following strict first-century Hellenistic Judaism burial rites. We need people like Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome to tend to the building of Beacon Hill now. We need to clean up this building and allow this tomb to bring forth new life.
I'm a believer in resurrections and in new life emerging out of the deepest, darkest moments of despair.
When I was in a sophomore in my university, I was offered a summer internship to go work for the Los Angeles Times. I let fear get in my way. I was 20, and I was a student of modest means. I thought "how will I survive living in Los Angeles for the summer?"
In retrospect, it was probably a silly question. Who knows, if I had taken that summer internship, would my life had been different? Would I be a foreign news correspondent writing for the Los Angeles Times? Who knows? All I know is that in 2015 I'll write for the Huffington Post blog. Maybe, like Dashiell Hammett, there still a trench coat and sunglasses out there waiting for me, and hopefully for all of us.