Let it be a sign unto you

Bishop’s Mantle column by Jim Bishop

Whether motoring up or down the grade, it’s rather hard to miss the striking sign for Weavers Mennonite Church along heavily-traveled Rt. 33 just beyond the Harrisonburg, Va., city limits.

What appears most noticeable are beguiling messages displayed on both sides. Recent examples: “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” “If God is your co-pilot, swap seats.” “Children brought up in church are seldom brought up in court.” “We always find time for the things we value most.” “God provides the wind; we must raise the sails.”

In April, 2006, the 315-member congregation replaced a nondescript metal sign that bore the church’s name and time of worship with a newly-designed sign with a larger, versatile display. It’s illuminated at night, so the words are always visible.

The foundation, erected in 1980 in memory of lifetime church member Lester Campbell, is made of native limestone that matches the church building. The big difference, besides being more conspicuous, is that the new sign allows for messages to be changed, which the church is doing weekly.

That job belongs to Floyd Blosser, 53, of Harrisonburg, a Weavers member and assistant manager of Booksavers of Virginia, a not-for-profit that takes donated books from individuals, estates and school systems and sells them on-line, at the local Gift & Thrift retail store and to wholesalers.

All proceeds go to Mennonite Central Committee.

“We wanted some way to demonstrate that our church is alive, something is happening here and we’re a welcoming place,” Blosser said.

Blosser was part of a committee that developed a proposal for the sign. He draws from many sources – the Internet, suggestions from fellow members, original sayings – and maps out a schedule of messages for several months at a time.

Final proposals are then forwarded to lead pastor Jeff Kauffman, for approval.

Blosser usually changes the messages on Sunday afternoons. Occasionally, the message advertises an upcoming event at the church, such as the Eastern Mennonite High School touring choir concert or Vacation Bible School.

The welcoming word apparently is getting around. Blosser received a note from a church neighbor that read, “Just a note to let you know how much your sign helps me daily. I drive by going to and from work every day and reading your sign has really helped me through some bad days. Thank you.”

Another person sent this e-mail: “I have been questioning my life and future … am not sure which way to go. I was thinking hard about this the other day and felt a bit hopeless. I passed your church and on the sign was ‘Trust an unknown future to a known God.’ It was as if God spoke directly to me. God sometimes uses the strangest things to speak to people. May more be blessed as I was.”

Blosser related a story of a man who was fired at work for inappropriate behavior. He drove past Weavers church and saw the message, “The one who angers you controls your anger.” He called the boss, apologized for his actions and was rehired.

Just a coincidence? Blosser wants to believe otherwise.

If we can offer some inspiration and encouragement to people on the go, we’ll keep on doing this indefinitely,” Blosser said of this new way the church has devised to help tell the old, old story.

Jim Bishop is a regular contributor to The New Dominion.

(Originally published 06-11-07)

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