More Broken Glass

more-broken-glassThe front of the church I serve has stained glass.  Lots of it.

The kitchen has broken glass.

On Easter morning, people were hurrying to hide the eggs and fill baskets for the egg hunt.  I could hear the sound of brass instruments as the musicians  practiced, and the ushers were ready to greet guests.

The custodian hurried up the hall.  “There’s something you should see,” he said.  The kitchen floor was covered with glass.  The outline of big footsteps on the counter.  The doorknob to the food closet on the floor.  Cookies for coffee hour had been taken, and the juice was missing.  That was it.  The microwave still sat there.  Drawers full of elegant silverware were full.  Fancy glassware from the church’s glorious entertaining days lined the shelves.

The closet for the food program was a mess.  Coffee and sugar all over the floor in a gritty mess.  Rice cookers tumbled around.

“Did they just want food?” the women standing around the kitchen asked.

Every break-in feels personal, whether it is or not.  How did someone know there was food in that closet?  Had we turned someone away who needed it?  Was it someone who had once worked in the church?  Were we not generous enough when someone needed something?

In the following weeks, we covered that back window with metal and added to our security.  The police came and took a report, and then sent a fingerprint technician out.  In a city with lots of break-ins, that was more response than we expected.

But none of it felt like the right response.

Should we get better at giving food away?  Shame on us, if people have to break into a church for food, when we have it sitting there.  What if we gave it away as fast as it came in?  Maybe the sign of our success should be empty shelves, and a closet that doesn’t need to be locked because there’s nothing left in it.

In the front of the church, the stained glass windows shimmer with the glory of another era in church life.  Each bright window tells a story of God’s presence in human life.  It also tells the story of a church with money, at that time.

What story does this glass tell?


  1. Reading your blog is (almost) like having a conversation with you. You ask great questions and inspire me (and hopefully others) to keep asking them until we find answers.

  2. Avatar Avery Lenhart says

    I love this part: Maybe the sign of our success should be empty shelves, and a closet that doesn’t need to be locked because there’s nothing left in it.
    I work at the temporary no-freeze shelter in town and I often ask the same question. Are we more successful if we are full or if there are empty beds? The question becomes: how do we define success? We want to be welcoming, warm, safe and helpful. Are empty beds a sign of success or failure?
    Thank you for this lovely blog, Mary!

    • Mary Austin Mary Austin says

      What a great question — is success in our fullness, or our emptiness? I think the same applies to our spiritual lives, too. Sometimes it’s the emptiness that makes room for something else. I love that you work in the shelter in your town!

  3. You never waste a word, Mary. I love your writing.

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