Central United by David Lewry
Central is the church where many people have found freedom. It is where I felt God whispering to me to live when all I wanted was to die.
How did a church do this to me?
A man who grew up thinking the Bible was a collection of pretty good, yet absurd stories while fearing God like a child fears an abusive parent… when I looked around in the haze I had made my daily life, I saw no evidence of God caring for or loving me let alone a planet that was self-destructing at a rate which made my own decline seem natural.
I hung around because I saw people changing because of God.
I watched others, who held contempt for organized religion testify in both words and actions to the facts that God was not only alive and well, but that He was not angry at us for being human.
It took me years to come in clean and sober and then it took me a few more years free of substances to come to terms with the fact that God did not hate me. To understand that God was waiting to forgive me for the multitude of mistakes I had made and was going to make in my following years.
That God never stopped loving me in all those dark places I wandered, dark waters I attempted to drown in, or in those dark shadows where I kept my true identity a secret. God is love and that is something I know without question today because I feel it run through my entire being in moments that today often stretch into hours and days.
I did not conjure it up instead I looked at the evidence around me once my head cleared of arrogance, pride, prejudice, anger, and fear. I searched my past as honestly and diligently as I could and saw that all along, God had protected me when I had forsaken everything I held dear even Him.
Whenever I had seen light along the blackened pathways where I knew no light could exist, there was no mistake, it was and it is God. There was always a hand reaching out and there were coincidences that I stammered through believing I was the luckiest man on earth, but that too was God. No one is that lucky.
It was the fellowship of Central United Church that showed me without preaching that what had happened and what was happening is a direct result of God providing me with opportunities to grow past my obstacles. God was doing for me what I could never do for myself.
It was not that all of a sudden God started working in my life because I started to believe. It was instead a gradual process in which I started to see that God had been working all along; in most cases He had been doing all of the heavy lifting. I learned the idea of faith without works as a dead art and practiced it until one day I was ready to start doing the work.
This was the day I started to feel faith in my heart and not just in my head where belief had begun to live strong.
This is a direct result of Michael Ward and Wayne Lewry, the two ministers of Central United Church; they diligently and gently spread the message of God’s unconditional love for all of man not just a select few. This was what people of my ilk and kin needed; we had been outcasts for our entire lives and this idea brought us peace and a sense of love we had never known.
They invited Muslims into the church for prayer, worship and fellowship.
They started CUPS and watched as it grew into an organization that helps thousands every year.
They started Inn from the Cold and watched as it grew into an organization that does the same.
They are constantly working with other charitable organizations to make Calgary the city we all believe it can be. They speak of nothing but charity and love when you get them alone. They are human, but they are the same whether at home or in front of people; they believe and they practice to the best of their ability this belief and it is evident in them when they speak of God and their love for their fellows.
They are the real deal; they are the truest reflection of a beautiful God that I have ever seen and I am as cynical and skeptical as the worst of these.
In this reflection of God, they are also a true reflection of the congregation from Central United, who diligently guard against discrimination, intolerance, and judgment for those who cannot or will not speak or stand up for themselves.
It has been the congregation of Central, who volunteered in the beginning and to this day to house the homeless in the church facility. They cook and serve the food, they talk with the guests of the shelter throughout the night, help with anything they may need, wash their linens and clothes, and show God’s love without a word or whisper to that end. They show it through works.
This is why no violence, no fires, no destruction, and no hate can ever get at the heart of Central United Church. The building is necessary and beautiful, but the building is but a reflection of its people and its people a true reflection of a loving God that is alive and well inside of us.
A loving God who walks, talks, and shakes hands.
May God watch over those involved in the arson; their actions are those of people suffering from a deep sickness that is all consuming. I want to pretend that I was never that sick, but fortunately God has blessed me, not on merit, but with His grace so that I am able to be here and to understand being spiritually bankrupt enough that the most absurd actions seemed reasonable.
Thank you God for no one being hurt in the fire.
Thank you God for in our darkest hours You perform miracles we cannot even imagine.