Pastor reflects on bridge collapse events
Pastor Doug Donley was in his church -- University Baptist Church -- on Wednesday, August 1 at 6:05 p.m. when he saw the lights flicker. Then he heard the sirens and found out what had happened -- that the 35W bridge had collapsed.
His church is just blocks away from the bridge.
During the summer, Donley's church combines services with the First Congregational Church -- which is also blocks away from the disaster.
Donley had to give a sermon the Sunday after the collapse. He said he approached the task with humility, prayer and very little sleep.
Knowing how impossible it would be to express all the emotions people were feeling, Donley tried to give room in his sermon for everyone to express their grief in their own way.
What follows is a commentary crafted from portions of Donley's sermon:
Minneapolis — Both of our congregations held services of prayer on Thursday. We lit candles. We heard the stories of where we were when the bridge fell.
At University Baptist Church, we sang "Precious Lord, Take My Hand." It seemed an appropriate song of comfort and longing. And then we got to the third verse:
"..at the river I stand, guide my feet, hold my hand. Take my hand, precious lord, lead me home."
I don't think I will ever sing those words without remembering what happens when we stand at the river. I think about all of our river songs and I wonder if they will all be like that for us from now on.
A river by its nature is always changing. It's sometimes calm. It's often foreboding. It's a place of power. Amos said our worship ought to be one in which 'justice flows down like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.'
There, in the river, there are no longer barriers of class or race or ethnicity or religion or political party.
We are all united by our desire to learn from this, to comfort those who mourn, to rescue and treat the injured, to recover the remains of those for whom we all grieve.
We have been buoyed by the stories of heroism as the tragedy unfolded.
It was that selflessness that I will long remember. It was Nate Miller bandaging a walking wounded person. It was Nancy Osborne going to Hennepin County Medical Center saying, "I'm a chaplain, can I help?" It was Erinn Huntley volunteering with the Red Cross, knowing that she had her turn signal on ready to go from University Avenue onto the bridge at 6:05 p.m. on Wednesday.
It was First Congregational Church opening its doors to the searching, the grieving, the onloookers.
This is God's presence here and now. We are God's hands and feet, we are God's face whenever we greet one another with compassion and support.
People will ask us where we were.
People will ask us how they can help.
People will ask us how we react.
Tell the story friends. Don't stuff it.
Learn from this not only about the fragility of human structures, but of the fragility and gift that is life itself.
Be gentle. Be patient. Remember that God watches over and provides us with a comforting hand as we gather at the river.
Remember the importance of community. And every time you cross a river, remember to pray, not only for the victims, but for God's ever-flowing presence.