Author: Bo Bowden
Recently, I decided I needed a break from the anxiety surrounding the pandemic and began to look for a retreat. Knowing there were few appealing options (I wasn’t quite ready to fly anywhere), I chose a spot many of you may have also visited: Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. At the time I booked my stay, the island was not yet open to visitors, but knowing how dependent the people are on seasonal travel, I figured that they simply had to open by Memorial Day. And they were.
What I had forgotten was that the island was still recovering from a crisis of their own. The island experienced heavy flooding from Hurricane Dorian last September, and was closed to visitors for 77 days until December. Once I arrived, riding my bike around the village, I saw several buildings that were under repair, some businesses still closed.
As I rounded a familiar turn, I saw the Methodist church raised on temporary pilings about 8 feet above the sandy ground beneath. A place I’ve attended worship. Both it and the parsonage were flooded in September. Nearby I saw a construction trailer from the North Carolina Conference Disaster Response Team, and another with the same logo that housed washers and dryers for residents nearby to use. Inside I spoke with a woman who had relocated with her husband from north Georgia to help with local reconstruction.
During the week I watched on the news as civil unrest reached a crescendo in DC, Richmond and other places around the country. So many of them in which the Virginia Conference has ministries. I’ll admit, I felt relief to be in a place where there seemed little danger of violence.
But as I looked at the little church in Ocracoke, it was clear to me to that we have in us an urge to recover, rebuild and restore. And we do so with each other. We simply cannot do so on our own. It does us little good to separate ourselves, saying “you take care of your problems, I’ll take care of mine.” It will require us to be vulnerable and honest, and to be willing to accept the help of others who are not necessarily from our communities. And it will take some time.
The other church on Ocracoke is an Assemblies of God parish aptly named the Lifesaving Station Church, whose congregation is generously sharing its space with Methodists while their church is gaining new footings. I wonder, while we recover from the pandemic and seek remedies for injustice, who will we invite into the United Methodist Church, and will we be humble enough to accept the outreach of others?