From Canon Pat Grace today:
The first Sunday after wildfires devastated their homes and their community, the people of Trinity Church, Gatlinburg, did what they do best – they gathered for prayer, Scripture, Eucharist, the telling of stories and food. Although the church and rectory were, miraculously, untouched, even from smoke, local authorities were not allowing folks to make their way there. The city will, reportedly, be opening up next Wednesday, 12/7. So Joe and Frieda Holt hosted whoever could make their way to their home in Sevierville.
About twenty gathered at the invitation of Interim Rector Bob Beasley, who led the group in the traditions we have long shared and found life-giving, that is, continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers. We heard the Gospel for that Sunday – incredibly, John the Baptist’s words about unquenchable fire. We anointed each other for healing, we prayed for everyone and everything we could think of. We gave thanks. We shared the peace. We shared the bread and the wine.
Folks told stories of their flight from homes and offices, of terrifying visions and barriers that had to be overcome. We heard tales of generosity from strangers and friends alike, of blessing in the midst of tragedy; of rescues of dogs, cats, rabbits, Guinea pigs, fish, and a cockatiel that weathered the flight in the back of a truck – and made it through the night. We shed tears for pets who were beyond rescue, and for loved ones and strangers who lost their homes and their lives. Amidst the heartbreak, there was, even so, moments of laughter and the sharing of deep fellowship and love. There was hope, although these faithful people recognize the long road of recovery that lies ahead for their members and neighbors. They understood that they were not alone, but surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, ready and waiting to walk the way together.