My wife and I were out of town last week, so we were unaware of the fire at the Bethel Missionary Church in the Village of Wappingers Falls. We happened to be driving by there yesterday, and were shocked at what we saw. When we got home, I went into the Poughkeepsie Journal archives online to learn what happened. Let me share a couple of thoughts on this.
After reading about the fire in the Journal archives, I read some of the readers’ comments in response to this fire. I was shocked at what I read. Rather than an outpouring of sympathy and prayers, many of the comments were hate-filled, anti-Christian, and/or anti-God. Those comments, while not representing the majority of people (I hope), does show a lunatic fringe exists that truly hates people of God in a vicious way.
As of this writing, the Journal has not published any articles telling whether or not the fire was a result of arson. My guess it that it was set. If that is true, and I hope it isn’t, then I pray that the perpetrator is brought to justice. Given the hard feelings in the village surrounding this church construction, I would guess that the arsonist is a neighbor of the church and probably has a police record.
Test of Faith
Such tragedies are tests of faith. From what I saw in the film clips on the Journal website, I believe that congregation has the faith and endurance to carry on. We read in 1 John 4:4:
Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. NRSV
We also read in Romans 5:3-5:
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. NRSV
My prayers are with the congregation of Bethel Missionary Church of Wappingers Falls. May their cup be filled to overflowing!
Prejudice Against Churches
As I mentioned above, there were hard feelings about this construction project. I’m amazed at how some communities throw all kinds of obstacles in front of church building plans. Below is an article from the e-newsletter CitizenLink dated 5/16/2008:
A federal court ruled recently that San Diego officials demonstrated antagonism and “outright hostility” toward a local church by subjecting it to unfair and burdensome zoning laws.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed a lawsuit against the city of San Diego after it denied Grace Church of North County’s application for a 10-year permit, which is required by law. The San Diego Planning Commission then agreed to a five-year permit and told Grace Church not to return for an extension.
“Federal law and the Constitution clearly prohibit government officials from treating religious groups the way Grace Church was treated in this case,” ADF Senior Counsel Brett Harvey said. “ADF will continue to fund the legal defense of churches being taken advantage of in this way.” © 2008 Focus on the Family Action, Inc. All rights reserved
In our own neighborhood, the Town of Poughkeepsie made Faith Assembly of God do an archeological study of the site of their proposed new building. After complying with that demand, now the town wants them to do an historical study. I wonder, did the town make any of the construction projects along route 9 do an archeological study and an historical study? I doubt it. More anti-church anti-Christian discrimination. What a sad commentary on the state of affairs in this country.