Sometime last week, our church was vandalized, and an enterprising crew made off with one of our HVAC units – the one providing heat and air conditioning for our sanctuary.
My initial impulse was to put something snarky on the church sign, like “Yo, thieves! A/C units don’t work where you’re going!”
I also contemplated other measures, like sitting in the churchyard late at night with a baseball bat, or chaining an ill-tempered Doberman near the remaining units. Fortunately, I was able to subdue my inner redneck, and I am trying to ponder this more calmly.
Our property, situated between Wheeler Road and Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway, is just about the last remaining parcel of “green space” in this section of Augusta. Thanks to an abundance of old trees and lots of shrubbery, our facilities are fairly secluded, and I suppose it’s a little surprising that we’ve not been targeted before.
Our back entrance has a gate that used to be locked all the time. A number of years ago we decided to throw it open, figuring that openness is something that ought to characterize a church. I’m sure, in the aftermath of this event, I’ll hear calls to close the gate once more, in an effort to make us more secure.
But security, at least as the world reckons it, is not what Christians are called to seek. Jesus said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
Instead of trying to shield ourselves against the awfulness of the world, we are to follow Christ into the world and, like him, risk everything for the world’s salvation.
So while we will take reasonable steps to prevent a recurrence of this theft, we will not close ourselves off from the world. In fact, we are building a new playground, which we hope will be used not only by the children of St. Andrew, but children from the apartments next door, or the children of parents who want to take a break from shopping in the center nearby.
That openness might create additional risk, but as someone else has said, “Ships in harbor are safe – but that’s not what ships are for.”
I am also concerned for the spiritual well-being of those who took the HVAC unit. I hope one day they learn that the really valuable stuff found here (and in every one of Christ’s churches) can’t be stolen, but is available for free.
THE REV. ED REES IS THE PASTOR OF ST. ANDREW PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN AUGUSTA.