My church burned to the ground on Friday.
When I say ‘church’, I mean the building. And when I say ‘burned to the ground’, I mean complete destruction.
But through the flames, Geelong West Presbyterian Church (GWPC) lives on.
Though I currently attend Surrey Hills Presbyterian for my training to be a minister, I’m still a member at GWPC.
After the Christian Union, GWPC was the first place where I received regular preaching that simply explained passages, and went consecutively through books week after week. It will always be special to me for that reason. After years of hearing sermons that went all over the place in the Bible, finally the Bible was opened up to me in a way I could understand. I was shown how to read the Bible through preaching.
And so on Sunday my family joined them once more. Meeting in the Primary School next door, there was sadness, but a strong confidence in the sovereign God.
Though the building has been lost, the church, the gathered people, remain, and perhaps stronger than ever. The building, and all that was in it, was a great resource for ministry. What the Lord had given, he has now taken away – at least temporarily.
But ministry continues. It is sad – a beautiful 102-year-old building, with so many memories has gone. The location of so many weddings, baptisms, funerals and regular faithful Sunday services is gone. An important landmark in busy Pakington St is now a pile of rubble.
Tears have been shed. But the people, the true church, are not lost, and God’s plans have not been thwarted.
The faith of GWPC has been, literally, tested by fire (1 Pet 1:6-7), and they can rejoice in all God has done for them. What someone meant for evil, God will use for good (Gen 50:20). The church has experienced something that will draw them together in a way they haven’t had to before. They will be tested with patience and uncertainty, and their faith and godliness will continue to grow, as they are transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18). And, assuming everything goes well, a new and even better building will be built through insurance money – a building where even more ministry will be done.
GWPC is very aware, humbled, and thankful for the prayers from other churches. They’ve also been made aware of the presence they had in the community – people unconnected with the church are saddened by the loss of the building.
Continue to pray. Pray that as GWPC continues to sing praise to their God, and as they pray to him who holds the world in his hands, and proclaims his word faithfully, that God would do his saving and maturing work. Pray that through this event, more disciples of the Lord Jesus would be made. Pray that they would keep looking to Jesus, the author and perfector of their faith (Heb 12:2). And pray that his will would be done through this time of trial.
Jesse Walz is married to Bec, and they have a four-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl. They attend Surrey Hills Presbyterian Church. Jesse is studying theology at PTC, and Bec is a stay-at-home mum.