By Rev. Pete Hyde
The mid-morning crowd at the Café Du Monde was lined up outside the door. We took our beignets, buried in powdered sugar, to a park bench overlooking the Mississippi River. It was a beautiful, crisp morning. I turned away from the view of the river to look into the French Quarter. In the middle of Jackson Square stood St. Louis Cathedral. With the morning sun reflecting off the white church, it looked almost heavenly against the darkness (literally and figuratively) of the city. Surrounded by manicured landscaping, it was an oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter, buzzing with tourists and those who made their living in the heart of New Orleans. In the shadow of the cathedral’s magnificent spires was all that makes the French Quarter famous – voodoo, bars, strip clubs, the homeless by choice and by circumstance, street vendors, aspiring street musicians, throngs of tourists and all the businesses that cater to them, high-rise office buildings and hotels all melded together in just a few city blocks.
We then drove into the town of Donalsonville. On main street, just a block or so from the main business district stood a small Methodist Church on a corner lot. The building, set on concrete blocks, leaned a little to one side and probably on a good day held no more than 60 folks. My first impression was, “Isn’t it great they preserved the old church for historical purposes.” We stopped at an antique shop a little further down the street. I asked about the old church, where it was located and how wonderful it was they had preserved the building. To my surprise, the owner of the store said it was still the Methodist Church. There were only about eight folks worshiping there in this town of 1500. They gathered each Sunday, but not for much else. Its small steeple didn’t seem to cast much of a shadow.
Another back road brought us to a crossroads in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by sugar cane fields. On one corner of the intersection was a small, red brick building. The small gravel-covered corner lot was empty of vegetation and cluttered with highway litter. It looked pretty lonely there all by itself on this out-of-the-way intersection. The sign listed its services on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays. In its shadow was nothing but gravel and sugar cane fields. I can tell you nothing about the ministries of these churches, from the magnificent cathedral in Jackson Square, to the small downtown church that had seen its better days, to the rural church on a barren crossroads, each had a ministry, no matter how large or small as determined by human standards of success. The shadows of their steeples (or buildings) must still be touching lives.
Regardless of the label on the sign, each church casts a shadow in the community where God has planted it. Some have cast their shadow in many and vast directions. Some have only cast their shadows very close to home. What lies in the shadow of the steeple? Let’s make it personal today. As those who have received God’s light in Jesus Christ, how is the shadow cast by the light in our own lives impacting the community in which we live? How big is the shadow of the Christian witness being cast by each of us?
Rev. J. Pete Hyde, Senior Pastor
Santa Rosa Beach Community Church