Not Quite Rising to an Eternal Mystery… 

Not Quite Rising to an Eternal Mystery… 

Some people noticed that the EXIT sign to the right of the chancel as one looks to the front of the church has a “right arrow” on it – seeming to indicate that the emergency exit was not the doorway over which the sign hangs, but the stairs up to the balcony. That was clearly a mistake. For some people it’s become not just annoying, but almost an obsession. 

It’s been on our list to speak with the electricians about. But we needed a time when they were out here and we remembered. This week, as they prepared the electric boxes for lighting the facade of the church (one of our attempts to make sure the world knows we’re still open during the construction of Old First House), was our occasion. 

And we learned something. Christina, Tobias’ Assistant, said, “Wait a minute; I installed those lights one day when I was working by myself, and I snapped a picture to send to Toby, that’s probably still on my phone.” Sure enough, there it was (pictured below).  Christina said, “Thank God! I’m not above making mistakes, but that would even embarrass me…” 


Tobias and Christina did a bit of research, and found that the EXIT sign where there should have been a right arrow had an arrowless EXIT sign that was damaged where it fastens to the sign (picture at the top of the article). 

So, we think that someone hit the EXIT sign over the back door with a ladder and cracked it where it was screwed to the fixture. …Best bet seems to be the Tech workers when they were installing the monitors over the door (which to be fair was not an easy task).. Anyway, instead of owning up to the damage, we think someone just switched signs. We’re not sure how long before we noticed, but one might say they got away with it? 

What does this all mean (you know, as a pastor, I have to look for lessons and meanings in everything!)?  Really, I just mean to tell you that the mystery is as solved as mysteries can be. And that the sign has been removed and a new one ordered. It will be a week or so before it gets replaced. (The missing EXIT sign actually bothers me more than the wrongly arrowed one did, but hopefully, that’s just me!)  So let’s make double sure there’s no fires anytime soon. 

Still I think I can draw a few insights from the whole debacle:

 ~ Maybe we haven’t been explicit enough that we really believe in, even practice forgiveness. Or at least it’s a reminder that messages of mercy cannot be shared too much. There’s inevitably, always someone new that needs to hear them. Or even those who have heard it a hundred times, need to hear it again – it seems too good to be true. I remember a friend’s church, when their gay pride sign was vandalized, they left it for awhile, and just added more message: “We forgive you; join us some Sunday to see why.” 

~ Whoever did the damage or made the switch / repair, really didn’t know us very well. Of course, a rightward arrow would be upsetting around here. Particularly in these days of hyperpartisan hostility. I wonder if they’d chosen as their replacement sign the leftward arrow EXIT sign, would it have been less noticeable or bothersome? 

We don’t really mean to be partisan, but we mean to be faithful and in our read of the tradition, the teachings of Jesus, the Bible, that means that orphans and widows deserve support, the hungry need food; the homeless need shelter, the sick deserve care and the prisoners need to be visited. 

~ You don’t need an exit from the church even in an emergency until you have come in first. That’s obvious, of course, but part of our challenge is making sure the entrance doors are as noticeable. That they are  attractive and welcoming. Have you noticed that visitors and guests have begun to show up again, even in numbers like before the pandemic. (Now if we can get the regulars to attend at the same numbers as before the pandemic!) 

You might have heard about the glass doors we are going to add behind our historic wooden doors, to make the church look more open, even transparent. Or you might have heard the rainbow doors we are going to create to place out front to show this is a space that believes in justice, equality and respect for queer folks (and everyone else). But those are just things – the opposite of EXIT signs. What can we ourselves, with our words and actions, do to make the entrance to our church community prominent and accessible? 

~ EXIT signs are equipment for the very physical presence of our church building. But we know now the ministry doesn’t have to be so tied to the building. Are the EXIT signs for online ministry? And what are the doors in the first place for people who aren’t coming over the threshold so much as over the internet? 

~ We say that Jesus is the Way. But like the first disciples, we often get turned around. There are so many signs and arrows in our world. And they cannot always be trusted. Especially when there’s an emergency and we’re in a panic. Sometimes, we just need to slow down, think, pray, remember, ask for help in order to find our way. We want our way to be Jesus’ way, where everyone is safe. 

May the Lord watch over us in both our coming in and going out forever more,