St. Paul’s building is 97 years old and the foundation of the structure is in jeopardy. The congregation is made up of senior adults, some who have been members their whole life long. On an average Sunday 10 to 15 people gather for worship. Their pastor, Ludy Manthei, drives from Bryan to be with them. He is 70 years old. They need $300,000 to renovate a lower wall that is in danger of failing and bringing the structure down with it.
St. Paul is located on FM 2307, off Highway 6 and in between the communities of Riesel and Marlin. I have driven by, though that was years ago. The church has been photographed and featured in a couple of books (here and here). The structure is also listed in the register of the Texas Historical Commission.
I read the article above in the Trib on Sunday morning. By the time I was through I had resolved to send a gift, and I asked my Sunday school class to pray for this congregation. Sure, St. Paul is a rural congregation. It is small. The Trib describes their fundraising task as “daunting.” But is anything impossible for God?
While exercising this morning I had this thought: if I shared this story with my friends, how many states would be represented if those I had encountered through the years decided to join me in sending a gift of any amount to this small congregation in rural Texas? I have an acquaintance in Alaska, friends in Kansas, a pastor friend in Alabama, an artist in Tennessee, some buddies living in Missouri. An old neighbor of mine lives in Denver. I have relatives in Georgia. A guy who lived on my hall in seminary works in D. C. Beyond my direct connections, I am sure that those people know people, or have friends, in other states.
Sure, this idea is whimsical, maybe even a little goofy. But that’s me.
Who knows? Maybe if we partnered together, did something a little out of the ordinary, a tad generous, the result might be surprising and wonderful and joyous. Plain fun.
So here is the deal. If you want to join me in blessing this congregation, with no strings attached, write a note, enclose a gift, stick it in your mailbox, raise the flag and smile. Say a prayer, too. I don’t care if you stick a George Washington in an envelope with a sticky note on it that says, “building” and “the kingdom of God is big.” Maybe you are someone of extraordinary means and you want to reach out to the church to fund a piece of history. Either way, do good and grin big.
My letter goes in the mail today and is addressed to St. Paul United Church of Christ, FM 2307, Marlin, Texas 76661.
If you plan to join in on the fun leave a comment and let me know what state you live in. I will keep track.
And feel free to share the idea with friends and family.
This little congregation has been bearing the light of Christ in rural America. They need help in preserving their gathering place. Who knows what God might do with them yet?
Finding out could be fun.