‘I Trust There Will Be Cactus Blooms’: Indiana Leader Reflects on Court Decision Affecting Church Property

A court has ruled against South Central Indiana District in a property suit concerning Roann Church of the Brethren. The ruling on property and assets was in favor of a group wishing to leave the Church of the Brethren. Here is a prayerful reflection on this moment in the life of the district, from district executive minister Beth Sollenberger:

When Tim and I moved to Ohio I left a fun position as the associate pastor of the Sebring congregation behind. Tim was called to serve the West Charleston church and I was trying to find some joy being a lousy homemaker while I looked for a pastorate within driving distance. Things did not happen on my time. I was bored and desperate and sad and discouraged.

On a winter day, surrounded by cold snow and a living room taken over by dusty clutter, I happened to glance at an abandoned cactus plant relegated to the lamp stand in the corner. We had originally been faithful keepers of the plant–watering sparingly but on schedule, turning occasionally so a new side would receive the sunlight, storing in the dark as suggested…and always we had waxy green stems to enjoy, never a bloom.

On a dark December day, after being told NO one more time, I huddled into the couch corner and discovered one bright pink bloom brightly attached to the cactus stem.

It is difficult to know what to say when, during this winter that will not quit, the judge has ruled against the district and for those who have chosen to leave the Church of the Brethren. And yet, I trust that there will be cactus blooms, reminders that God is over all and in control and guiding our lives. God knows us from before we came into being and ever after. God loves us through despair and gives us purpose and peace.

Thank you Almighty God for all those who have gone before us, planting the Church of the Brethren congregations that make up our district. Thank you God for all those who worship and serve you. Thank you God for the churches of our denomination with whom we share the joys of faith and the disappointments of living. Thank you for cactus blooms and signs of your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

— Beth Sollenberger is executive minister of South Central Indiana District of the Church of the Brethren.

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