Walking through the airport in the immediate aftermath of the 1965 march from Selma to Alabama’s state capital of Montgomery to demand voting rights for that state’s African-American citizens – an event that left many marchers battered and bruised – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. felt he caught a glimpse of beloved community. Seeing participants of the march from every ethnicity, gender, religious, and socioeconomic background crowded together awaiting flights back to their respective homes in harmony with one another – at one with each other, he would later write that “I knew I was seeing a microcosm of the mankind of the future in this moment of luminous and genuine brotherhood.”
Last February, in the immediate aftermath of an event that left Fairmont’s Trinity UMC faith community mentally, spiritually, and emotionally battered and bruised, Charlotte Meade feels like she too glimpsed a moment of genuine humanity at its finest when people from all parts of the community came together in solidarity to help with the cleanup effort.
“There were so many people that were aware that something was going on that just showed up,” says Meade, a nearly lifelong member of the historically African-American congregation where she currently serves as its longtime music director. “Many of us did not know (the volunteers) at all, and color was something not keeping anyone away.”
The church’s historic downtown building had just been vandalized, with intruders shattering windows, ripping out organ pipes, tearing down the altar cross, and perpetrating many other cruel and destructive acts to the facility. In the immediate aftermath of a prayer circle the Sunday following the attack, where church members asked God to bless their efforts to recover and to make a change in the person(s) that had done them harm, a work day was scheduled. And it wasn’t just Trinity members that showed up.
It was beloved community.
“The people who came were from all walks of life and from different congregations or no congregation. They came in and said ‘oh, I know how to do that.’ It was like a pick-me-up,” says Meade, who was baptized into the Trinity family as an infant and whose great-great grandfather had a hand in its founding. “They showed up again and again. That was a strong kind of message we think that gave us the feeling that we were doing all the things we needed to do to keep that church being used and as a place that the community can feel good about.”
Fast forward to today, almost one year later, and those community-wide efforts to keep the Trinity building a viable meeting place – as well as the strong message that sends – continue. Although the church still is in the process of recovering from that traumatic event, it is moving ever closer to a restoration of what was taken from them – both in terms of the physical wounds to the building the deep wounds to the soul of the congregation.
Both the building’s exterior and interior have been cleaned, carpet replaced by refinished wooden floors, doors repaired and restored, and widows replaced. The pipes have been put back in place, and the cross once again stands on the altar where it belongs. Rails, curtains, communion trays and chalices, and offering plates all put back in working order. And the people that call Trinity home, who this time last year were forced to deal with unimaginable trauma, are being healed and restored right along with their beloved facility.
Despite the restoration effort nearing completion, the pandemic may temporarily delay Trinity’s return to gathering in person at a fully restored facility, but that has not stopped Meade, the church’s pastor Rev. Brad Bennett, and rest of the congregation from dreaming of the day that happens – from catching a glimpse of what God has in store for a faith community that is rebuilt and restored in so many more ways than one. They hope to reopen on Palm Sunday.
“We’re looking forward to the time when we can open up the doors to the church and have a celebration of love,” says Meade. “With an open invitation to anybody as we celebrate coming home.”
Coming home to beloved community.