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November 3, 2011

A Reflection on The Week That Has Been

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

When the sun broke through the clouds late on Sunday morning, there was a small smile on my face. The freakish October snowstorm was finally finished. On Saturday into early Sunday morning, Bergen County was devastated by fallen trees and limbs that ripped down power lines plunging thousands into the dark. Here in New Milford, most of the borough was without power, though here at church, we were OK. We kept power throughout the storm and the clean up.

Here in eastern Bergen County, the snow wasn’t as deep as predicted, but the power outages were worse than expected. In our church neighborhood, the lights went out for those east of Saint Matthew’s property on Grand Street after a second large tree limb fell onto the power lines on Sunday afternoon. It took until Wednesday afternoon for crews from an Alabama lighting company to arrive and bring things back to normal.

WIthout power, people and businesses lost a lot. No, they LOST A LOT. Even yesterday afternoon, food businesses on River Road were still closed as their owners tried to figure out the expense of throwing away thousands of dollars in food. Homeowners were still coming to grips with how much they personally lost, but for some, this week has been time to wait for insurance adjusters to visit to figure out how much their homeowner’s policy will pick up for repairs to their properties. This has been a tough week for so many people.

On Monday morning, I sent out a message via Facebook and Google+ stating that our church doors would be opened for those who needed to charge their phones or are in need of a cup of coffee. Considering that most people didn’t have power, I wasn’t confident that many would take up this call. At 9am, church doors were opened, and soon thereafter, two neighborhood families did come by for a place to charge their smartphones whose batteries were near empty. They were thankful that they were able receive emails on their phones from people who read my posts letting them know that our doors would be opened. And they were very thankful for Saint Matthew’s for helping out.

On Wednesday, there was a knock at the backdoor of the church. Standing there was one of the women who came by to charge her phone on Monday. When she was here, we ended up talking about the opening stages of our Food Pantry. She was impressed that our small church was starting something so large and meaningful. And on Wednesday, as she stood outside the backdoor, in her hand was a bag of food for the pantry.

“It’s only a little, but I hope it can help. Thank you,” she said as she rushed off to pick up her children at school.

As she ran back to her car, I thought of the conversation we had on Monday as she waited for her phone to charge. She was one of those in our neighborhood who was very angry at us for signing a contract to erect a T-Mobile digital and cellular flag pole on our property. In fact, she was one who put one of those yellow signs her lawn against Saint Matthew’s.

But her husband wasn’t angry at us, she said. He said that everyone has a cell phone and needed coverage. “The good Catholic that he is, he said we should trust the church. And I didn’t.” For over a year, that yellow sign dotted her lawn, moved only by her landscaper. She said she changed her mind after talking with a pediatrician about cell towers. Apparently he said something that made her realize that there was no health danger. The sign came off her lawn.

As I stood there holding the bag of food for our pantry, she pulled away in her car waving goodbye.

This week, our church schedule gets busier. This morning, our Samaritans begin the process of cooking a meal for the Walk-In Shelter in Hackensack tomorrow. Bakers and cooks will descend upon Saint Matthew’s as we prepare to show neighborly and Christian love to many who live their lives not knowing where their next meal will come from. This evening, our Board of Elders meet here at #church. Tomorrow, I have a doctor’s appointment followed by my version of “Taxi” (I am driving around picking up people who will help with our meal effort). In the afternoon, we will head to Hackensack and serve the meal. And afterward, we’ll clean up, bring whatever items we need to return to Saint Matthew’s, and then head off to Concordia College in Bronxville, NY for a Town Hall meeting hosted by #LCMS President Matthew Harrison.

And then we get ready for our weekend worship services where we will observe All Saint’s Day. On Sunday, we have our First of the Month Fellowship Hour downstairs in Fellowship Hall. And at 1pm Sunday, Saint Matthew’s will host Thrivent Financial and their “Hymnal Book Angel” project.

Definitely, our collective week started out with some difficulty and sadness, but by the grace of God, Saint Matthew’s can bring a smile to the eyes of the needy.

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