One of the good things about my job is it often takes me to places in the line of duty other folks have to take time off to see.
That was the case last week when I went to watch a "steeple raisin'" at Johns Creek United Methodist Church. I have seen a couple of those in my time, and it is always an uplifting experience.
Of course, there were more than a few Methodists on hand to watch. The church is just 25 years old, and for many churches that is almost new. But in North Fulton, it is positively ancient considering so much of what has been built here is new and so many of the people who live here now grew up elsewhere.
But Johns Creek UMC is not really so new. Its roots go deep into the black earth of eastern old Milton County. Johns Creek UMC is truly a united church because it is a union of the Warsaw and Ocee Methodist churches.
I guess they saw that they could do more good as one church working in the community than as two smaller ones. Certainly talking to the members of the congregation at JCUMC who were there last week to watch the placing of the 14,000-ton steeple on the new bell tower, they saw it as part of God's work in the community.
Was there more than a glint of pride as the huge crane lowered it into place? Of course, who would not take satisfaction in being a part of a $12 million capital project that included a new sanctuary as well?
But it is a 23-acre campus, and the steeple was the last thing they built. Instead, they built first a congregation that meets in shifts – they have three Sunday morning services. They built ball fields where children and young people go to grow strong. They support mission trips and community projects.
I understand they even have a covered-dish supper now and again. Well, they are Methodists are they not?
But as their senior pastor, the Rev. D.B. Shelnutt Jr., told me, the steeple is a beacon to the community. It tells the people here is a place of refuge, of peace and a community of worship.
I have seen new churches, new synagogues, new mosques and worship places of all kinds grow here like a garden. Each is a bulwark of and for the community. Each one represents people who are here to stay and raise families.
Worship houses make communities stronger. And what makes them stronger in America is that we can do it side by side. We read in the newspaper or see on the news broadcast many places where sectarian violence is a parcel of daily life.
Here, we see the value of religious freedom, which guarantees at one stroke the freedom for all and the freedom for the individual to pray as one wishes.
And so this latest steeple is a beacon of peace, of outreach, of aid to fellow man and woman. And that is when God smiles.