This past Sunday we were surprised when we tried to turn on the air-conditioning and could not. Upon further inspection of the system, we discovered that our air-conditioning units (the five units by the garage, on the south side of the church) had been vandalized. Whoever did this showed no mercy. The units were severely damaged. The electrical wires were cut and torn off the outside wall of the church. After meeting with the police, we are certain that this happened on Saturday night. We suspect that the motive for the crime was drug related. Many drug addicts will steal anything that has copper in it, in hopes of selling the copper to a dealer for some quick cash. We have had so much copper stolen from our building over the years (all of our down spouts have been stolen) that it’s hard to believe. Ray Griffin and I actually spoke at a hearing before the relevant committee in Annapolis once on a bill seeking to address the issue of stolen copper. I don’t know that it did any good but I guess there is some comfort in knowing that we are not alone in being victims of this type of crime. It’s happening everywhere. You might say it is “a sign of the times”. In recent years we have had so much vandalism done to the church, (statues broken, plants stolen from the garden, lawn furniture ruined, the church entry used as a community toilet) that after a while you get discouraged and then you almost become numb to it.
How do we cope with this? First of all we recognize the problem for what it is: drugs. The Dundalk neighborhood is being overrun by addicts. The same is happening to neighborhoods all over America. Every day, in addition to property being stolen, young men are dying of drug overdoses, while others commit suicide and still others are murdered. Twenty years ago, few of us had personal knowledge of such heinous things. Now we all personally know victims of these tragic events. You could say that we have lost the war on drugs and it is now full and fast upon us. I also think that it’s safe to say that this situation is going to worsen before it gets better.
It’s no mystery why this is happening. This is happening to America because America has, over the last fifty years lost its faith in Jesus Christ. You all know the story. The blue laws were repealed, making Sunday just another work day. Then prayer was disallowed in the schools; then the Christmas pageants were abolished. The kids were not taught respect for the Ten Commandments, teaching moral relativism instead. Then the schools began planning sports events on Sundays, so Sunday Schools dried up. Some churches are still thriving, but generally all over America the local churches, Catholic and Protestant alike, are drying up and disappearing. This is a frightening thing to see for those who have faith to see it.
Let’s recognize that God is not doing this to us. The problems we have are those that we bring upon ourselves. God is simply withholding his grace from us and thereby letting us see what it’s like to live in a land that is not fertilized and watered by the word of God. This is, at its heart, a spiritual problem with a spiritual solution. The problem is that America has turned its back on God. The answer is to turn back to God; to do as Jesus said, “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mk.1.15). The apostles warned the early church that “God disciplines those whom he loves.”(Heb) When we fall into sin he forgives the penitent, but he also lets us pay the price of suffering. The social sins of this country since the 1960’s are obvious and familiar to us all. “You reap what you sow,” the Bible also says. We have sown to the winds of promiscuity and indifference to the word of God and we are now reaping it. The way out of this is to come back to church and come back to God. God’s grace can turn this sorry situation around in a heartbeat; but before God will do that we have to give him our hearts. Prayer is the act of opening our hearts to God: pray every day for America, for Dundalk and for this church. Pray each day, really pray. God will get us thru this if we trust in Him.
Don’t give up. The Bible is full of admonitions to, “Fight the good fight!” and “Endure to the end.” Dundalk needs the churches now more than ever “to stand against the wiles of the enemy” (Eph.6). Keep praying and get your friends and neighbors to come back to church. I mean get in their face and get them back in here! If you’re reading this newsletter but haven’t been to church in a year, I mean you! Are you willing to sit back and see this church close? Are you willing to watch and do nothing as Dundalk goes to hell? We need to take back our neighborhood; take it back from the dealers and users who have no right to it. Double your prayers, people. Don’t go to bed at night without confessing your sins and then pleading for Dundalk and for our church. We need a miracle, and Jesus Christ is the one to do it.
Fr. Jansen String