As Long Memorial United Methodist Church in Cordova looked with broken hearts at the rubble that was once their beautiful church building, they had a sister church in Williams Chapel United Methodist Church near the Pineywoods community that shared their sorrow. What started as one church using another until arrangements could be made turned into blessings beyond words for both churches as they made it possible for each group to still have their services as they were used to but brought the Sunday School classes together as one. God was creating a bond between these people, His people, that will forever stand as a testimony that in Him we are all one and that the beautiful Long Memorial church building was no longer as it had been but the church was never gone because the wonderful congregation that comprised Long Memorial was the church and is the church.
One of the greatest blessings out of this tragedy was the joining of the churches two youth groups. The young people joined in with my smaller group for Sunday School and there never was an uncomfortable time of the youth getting used to each other but it was as if they had all always known each other. These young people came from four different school districts within the county but the rivalry usually seen between schools was never present. They were just a group of young people joining together to worship and learn the Word of God. After a short time they joined together for youth outings, youth praise services at other churches and eventually a retreat to Tybee Island in Georgia.
Through all of this, the youth continued to grow closer and the leaders grew to love having the time they had watching the friendships and closeness develop. By the time the sad/happy day came that Long Memorial was ready to have their first service in their new building in Cordova, the youth group was indeed one, never to be two again. On Wednesday nights, the leaders load up the church bus and cars and make the drive to Williams Chapel for youth time there. Our general time is first having a meal with the youth that is provided by different volunteers each week and then a time of teaching where we show them how to use the Word of God in their everyday life. In doing this I think we oftentimes learn more from them as they share everyday experiences with us. On Sunday afternoons those of us at Williams Chapel travel to Long Memorial for youth time there.
Some think of this as too much work. Some do not see the benefits of doing it. Some still think of two separate groups. But not us. We are one. Just ask any of the youth involved in the group. Williams Chapel is the smaller group and the Long Memorial youth leaders do not have to take the time it takes to drive in that direction on Wednesday night or at other times we do something at church service that includes the youth group. I could say that driving a few kids on Sunday afternoon to Cordova is too much trouble. But the blessings we as leaders receive and seeing the bonds made between these young people that will be with them a lifetime are so well worth it. What a privilege to have met these beautiful people from Long Memorial and to have the opportunity to keep our relationships going through not only the youth group but through us all being one in God.