二○二○年六月五日／六日／七日 Click here for English version
麥克牧師（Rev. Michael Spurlock）被差派到聖徒聖公會（All Saints Episcopal Church），為要預備這所債台高築、聚會人數甚少的堂會走上結束之路，將田產出售。教會的會眾都看穿他被派來的目的，可是，在他第一次帶領崇拜後，有一群來自緬甸的難民來到教會門口。
Let the Church be the Church
Rev Lawrence Chan
When Rev Michael Spurlock was sent to serve in All Saints Episcopal Church, the small congregation had a debt it could not repay and he was there to sell the property and close the church. The congregation knew it. But after the first service led by Rev Spurlock, a group of refugees from Myanmar were at the door of the church.
"When visitors come to the church door with their needs, how can we reject them?" said Rev. Spurlock.
However, the church was in deep financial trouble. There was also language barrier between the congregation and the refugees. What was more, the bishops' conference did not think the church should continue to operate. What could Rev Spurlock do?
In much doubt, the pastor prayed earnestly to God. Finally, he clearly discerned God's will that he had to lead the refugees to cultivate the land surrounding the church and use the harvest proceeds to repay the loan. There were great difficulties in the implementation. They had no irrigation equipment, no tractors. Cultivation was difficult. The pastor experienced God's wondrous provision but also shouldered a greater debt.
It was finally time for harvest and they saw a big harvest. The church community prepared to hold a celebration after harvesting. Then, another tragedy happened. On the day of harvest, there came a thunderstorm damaging much of the crop, and the truck carrying the earlier harvest was detained by the police and the crop turned bad. All was lost! All the efforts seemed to have gone down the drain!
Rev. Spurlock, the congregation and the refugees were downhearted and they saw no way out. The church arranged a farewell gathering. But then the game changer came as the parish representative stood up to address the congregation. He announced that All Saints would be designated as a missions church and that all debts would be absorbed by the parish. A Burmese leader who helped Rev Spurlock minister to the refugees was appointed as co-worker. The refugees were to become part of the congregation and joined the original members to serve the Lord. The two groups had worked together closely to repay the debts before, sought and experienced God together and had become one community. Residents of the town saw that All Saints received strangers and shouldered its mission. They saw a church that truly worshiped and served God.
Rev Spurlock said: "Jesus commanded us to take care of the poor and strangers. What the church needs to do is to follow the command. Unless we do so, we will not be really living out our faith. We are the body of Christ. We should care for people and receive strangers. If the church does not care for them, who else will?"
I do not know about the later developments of All Saints. All I know is that their experience has again proclaimed: The evangelical church is called to face the challenges of the world and shoulder social responsibility. When Christians, whatever their races and colors, can humble themselves and reflect, practice loving our "neighbors," face squarely our neighbors' wounds from this world of sin and the redemption they need, God's presence will be manifest. He will purify the church and prepare us for the wedding supper of the Lamb.