Buck scanned the remains of the sanctuary, and then settled his gaze on the communion table. “Church was on fire,” he said simply.
“We were insured. Hopefully we can find a place to meet until we rebuild.”
“That’s not what I meant,” said Buck. “The building burned down. The church was on fire. You didn’t notice?”
“I’m not sure what. . .”
“Some of these folks haven’t been that close since,” he gestured toward the table, “…well I don’t know. I never seen Thelma Kaiser and Mary Criswell stand next to each other like they did today. They held hands during the prayer.”
“It’s amazing what can happen if….”
“Y’know what I think? I think we had all we needed today. We had bread, a cup, a table . . . and we had each other. The Good Lord showed up, too. I don’t think you’ll rebuild this church any better than it was today. Fire burned up the building. It built the church.”
The reverend Turley was silent.
Buck reduced the ashen pages of a hymnal to powder with the toe of his boot. “Gordon, it’s bothered me for years,” he said. “I keep readin’ and readin’ in my Bible and I can’t find most all the stuff we did in this place. Somebody’s house or even the back room of my store seems to fit better what I read about the church.”
“Well, Mr. Dearborn,” Turley began defensively, but Buck stopped him with a glance.
“Suit yourself,” he said, and turned to go. Then, almost as an afterthought, he came back, and slipped a matchbook into the pastor’s hand. “Couple’ a verses there,” he said. “Jotted ’em down at coffee this morning.”
The Reverend Turley felt he should have known the verses by heart, but he had to wait until he got into the car to look them up in his Bible. He turned the tissued pages until he found the place. “You are fellow citizens with the saints,” he read. “Christ is the corner stone. . . growing into a holy temple . . . built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” He turned the page to Hebrews and read the second verse: “For our God is a consuming fire.” Gordon Turley went home and sat quietly in his living room in front of a dark fireplace. It occurred to him that he hadn’t built a fire there in a long time.