This is the time of year when those of us who live in Tempe and West Chandler enjoy the warmer days of spring and visits from loved ones who are escaping, if only for a few blessed days, the shoveling of snow and perilous driving on icy streets.
It’s also when churches in our area and around the world gear up for their biggest celebration of the year: Easter.
While a growing number of people in the U.S. profess to be “nones”—that is, having no particular religious affiliation—the churches where we live note that, in many cases, they’re expanding and thriving.
Just since last Easter, First Baptist Church of Tempe and Gethsemane Lutheran Church each have built new sanctuaries.
Dayspring United Methodist Church underwent renovation, and St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church completed extensive remodeling. While many East Coast cities continue to close churches, in our little hamlet, they’re flourishing.
All of this reminds me of a quote from 19th century French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville, who famously said:
“Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
For all those naysayers out there, we’ll acknowledge churches aren’t perfect. Their leaders are only human. The same goes for members of the congregation. Yes, you’re sure to find hypocrites and sinners at church. But as the founder of the Christian faith said, he came to save the lost and redeem the sinner.
Early in his pontificate, Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, endeared himself to many when he responded to a query about who he is:
“I am a sinner who has met the mercy of God,” he declared. Devout believers of every denomination could certainly identify with that. We’re broken and we turn to God to find healing and hope.
Here in our community, the Easter message our churches preach illustrates one more way they serve as a force for good. Their goal is to continue to help build strong families and, in turn, a stronger community. The crux of the Christian message, hope, is something we long to hear, especially as our area mourns the ongoing suicide crisis among our youth. When young people feel they don’t matter, that no one loves them and they see no way out, they are tempted to despair. Churches stand ready to offer the love of God and hope for the future.
They also persevere in teaching the idea that serving, loving and forgiving others is the pathway to peace and ultimately brings us healing and joy. In world broken by violence, addiction and other destructive behavior, this hopeful message offered by our churches calls us to be better members of the community .
We here at Wrangler News applaud the crucial work area churches do in bringing hope and instilling values of caring, integrity and service.
We can’t help but notice that when horrific events such as the death by suicide of a young person, terror attacks, school violence, tragic accidents and natural disasters occur, many turn to faith in God—and by extension, churches—for consolation.
Our pastors and faithful stand with arms wide open to comfort the afflicted and counsel the doubtful. May our churches continue to be a wellspring of good in the community, sharing Easter joy with all.