As we began February, I was prepared for another busy month in the life of UBC. Most of my focus was on the work of the Personnel and General Nominating Committees as beginning plans were being made to form a search committee and a job description (still thrilled for Ashley, but sad for those of us here at UBC who will soon be saying our good-byes). I knew the month would also be consumed with time for planning worship and discipleship oppor- tunities during Lent and by my first quarterly preaching retreat of the year (time I take for advanced sermon planning).
What I did not know was that on February 10, as the General Nominating Committee was meeting, our plans for the month would be impacted by the tornado that passed just a half block from our church buildings. On the following Wednesday after the tornado, we moved from working in neighbors’ yards to worshipping together as we marked ourselves with the Ash Wednesday ashes. By the time the day was done, I was both exhausted and full of hope and joy. As I sat in bed, I penned these words and posted them on my Facebook page:
‘Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.’ These words took on new meaning this Ash Wednesday as we stood among the dust of destruction around UBC’s neighborhood. As I reflect on the day, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the loss so many experienced , I remember Billy and Sandra Davis whose house was destroyed, I remember the tears of our chair of deacons, Gloria Green, after she first walked down Essex and Peach Streets. But I also remember the new neighbors I met as we worked side-by-side, I remember the ways my church family has shown love for one another and neighbor, and I remember the joy of embracing my colleague from Westminster Presbyterian as we stood outside the broken remains of his son’s home. And sud- denly I understood Lent… standing in the midst of real brokenness even as we lean into resurrection.
Yes, we are dust, holy dust, soon to be resurrected dust.
As a congregation, we have logged more than one thousand volunteer hours since the tornado carved its path of destruction through Hattiesburg. That is over a thousand hours of time we have spent demonstrating the love of Jesus to our church family and our immediate neighborhood. That is over a thousand hours that we have shed a little bit of resurrection light into the brokenness of our community.
And so, now more than ever, I am eager to make the journey toward Easter. I am ready to see chil- dren playing on our front lawn during Spring Fling. I am ready to worship on the edge of Arlington Loop as the Sun rises on Easter morning. I am ready to carry a cross covered in flowers to the front lawn so that all can see a living sign of life through brokenness. I am ready to lean ever more into the resurrection and eager to share the joy of resurrection living with our neighbors.