Grant Swank
Easter joy in the open
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By Grant Swank
April 3, 2009

Throughout the Lakes Region there are numerous churches. That bodes well for communities who value communion with the One who molded our striking environs.

These church buildings are of varying architectural styles — some traditional and others modernistic. Yet, especially during Eastertide, all serve as invitations to gather in grateful worship.

Driving past our village churches, I am reminded of an Easter when I gladly worshiped in a most unusual church.

My wife and I had found ourselves seated in the midst of jubilant singers. They had been giving forth boisterously in song for several days. That is the reason they had rowed down the Courantyne River — to strum guitars, lift their voices in praise and expound upon the Scriptures.

Tantalizing breezes were clothing our bodies in warm swaths. Morning sunlight smiled upon our cluster. Luscious trees nearby bowed their leafy branches, giving homage to the God who crafted their frames.

My wife and I had just completed a chicken dinner in the pastor's dining room. (However, truly it was not all that easy to differentiate the dining room from any other room for in fact all the living space seemed one open expanse..) Nevertheless, we relished the meal, particularly the cool juices.

Now we had meshed in with these delightful, handsome Amerindians from the Arawak Tribe. They had rowed down river from Guyana's Orealla Village, an isolated community of 2000.

Nathaniel, 23, was their pastor. He impressed me with his humble graces. After several days of prayer and fasting in a meadow outside their village, the believers concluded God had chosen Nathaniel as their spiritual leader. Reluctantly, this shy fellow accepted the call.

Now encircling Nathaniel were his parishioners. They too greeted us with a rather delicate, bashful posture. All in all, that setting proved to be quite regal in its unaffected simplicity. I remember it fondly.

One by one, on into the afternoon the Amerindians shared their testimonies. They particularly related discovering the resurrected Savior in peace and comfort, mercy and hope.

Then one of the crowd would start singing again. In short order, everyone followed suit. The church was quickly ablaze with thanksgiving at Eastertide.. These worshipers seemed never to tire of singing, singing, singing.

Easter glow was on their faces. But more importantly, its power was evident in their lives.

Prior to surrendering themselves to their Easter God, they had lived violent testimonies to murder, revenge, lust and greed. Clubbing an enemy with a pipe was daily fare. Putting a curse on a hated neighbor was common ritual. Drunkenness was the expected lifestyle of living in the bush.

But no more for these folk for Easter power had gripped their lives so as to give them meaning, purpose and a glorious tie to their Creator God. They knew that He had not only resurrected two thousand years ago but that He had also risen within their very souls.

"God is real to us," Nathaniel stated quietly, yet with conviction. And looking into each of their faces, one knew the rest echoed his surety. So there was the church! Alive and well.

Interestingly enough, there was no church building. At least not in the sense that one would expect. Where we had clustered was underneath the pastor's house. That was the church space!

The house was on stilts — high up. So the spacious footage beneath that dwelling was the church space. Those from Orealla Village had joined with the local congregation in that airy delight for Easter week celebration.

This Easter as you gather with others, picture those around the world doing the same. And wherever believers meet, regardless of a building or not a building, there you will have come upon the living church.

© Grant Swank

 

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Grant Swank

Joseph Grant Swank, Jr., is a pastor at New Hope Church in Windham, Maine... (more)

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