Hurricane Irma sent the flock fleeing, so the pastors at First Presbyterian Church on Hilton Head Island went to the flock on Sunday.
Hilton Head was boarded up and under mandatory evacuation and curfew, but parishioners of First Presbyterian Church could still worship by cellphone.
Pastors Doug Fletcher, Lisa Schrott and Joel Wood tried via email to “share a message of hope and trust with the congregation. We hope you take time today to be in worship with us from wherever you are, and we hope to see you soon.”
The digital worship included a pastoral prayer, a prayer of confession, assurance of pardon, benediction, and a message from Fletcher, the senior pastor.
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“Today, I was going to talk on trusting God,” Fletcher wrote. “I still think it is the right subject. The biblical passage is from Ephesians 3:15-21.”
After quoting the passage, he said, “God is more powerful than any storm, more loving than we can imagine, and more present than we often realize. And when we trust God, we don’t have to be afraid for ourselves. We are free — to love, to encourage, to bless.”
Over the Labor Day weekend, Doug and Wesla Fletcher had gone to Texas for their grandchildren’s birthday parties. And there they ran into Hurricane Harvey, which helped inform today’s digital reflection.
“I went with a group from my son’s church to Columbus, Texas, a small town on Interstate 10, west of Houston, where we went into a house that had had two feet of water inside for days,” Fletcher wrote. “Everything was ruined. All of the furniture was outside at the curb to be hauled away. The smell inside was awful, full of mold. Even with the masks we wore, it could overwhelm.
“We cut out Sheetrock and shoveled out wet insulation. I don’t know if the house ultimately will be saved. But I know this. I was glad to be able to do something for someone else. I was glad to be a part of a church group. I was glad for the ways in which the Methodist Church was helping to coordinate huge volunteer efforts in that little town to help clean up 150 homes of the very poor, people who had lost absolutely everything.
“And then there was Jewel.
“Jewel had lived in that little house for decades. She has a job at a hospital and works long days. She was still grieving when we arrived about all of the memories that were on the curb. But she was so grateful to all of us. She trusted God and made me wonder if I could be so gracious and so resilient in such circumstances.
“She reminded me of the power of faith, of the wonder of love, and of the presence of the Spirit. We prayed for her and her family at the end of the day. And the church will be back. And Jewel prayed for us.
“And then I came back to Hilton Head to find myself in conversations about preparation for evacuation. But I find myself thinking again and again about Jewel. And reflecting on what it means for me to trust God more.
“God bless you! We keep you all in our prayers.”