Monday, November 2, 2009

Church Experiment #44: Mason Vineyard

I write this week with a heavy heart.

I am confused, angry, and in shock.

Saturday, October 31, 2009, Charlie Matthews passed away. Charlie was the lead pastor at Mason Vineyard Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. [I think Mason Vineyard has closed. The website no longer exists, and although the lead pastor’s LinkedIn profile still says he works at Mason Vineyard, I can’t seem to find any online presence for the church.] Charlie served in various roles at Vineyard Community Church for many years. One of those roles was Director of Alpha. I was a speaker at Alpha. While in that position, I worked with Charlie for over a year.

But I knew Charlie long before that. He was a star volunteer many years ago when my ex-girlfriend helped lead outreach at the Vineyard. That was Charlie—he loved the church; he loved people; he loved serving.

I was incredibly conflicted this week. I had planned on visiting Mason Vineyard before hearing the news. Charlie had been sick for about a month, and I was curious how a relatively new church was functioning without its leader. But I also didn’t want to exploit Charlie’s tragic death. No matter where I ended up, I knew my thoughts would be with Charlie, his family, and the Mason Vineyard.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.

19 comments:

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I'm sorry for your loss Steve - but it is your loss, and your church's loss.

You will miss him badly, and I'm sure his family will miss him worse - but for a Christian, death is not the end, it is a new beginning! Charlie is now a member of the Church Triumphant; he is fully healed now in a way he never could be on this earth. Your prayers for his healing have been answered, not in the way you'd hoped, but in the way that was best for him.

It is dreadfully sad, of course (even Jesus wept at his friend's grave), and you will all miss one another badly.

And it's okay to ask why - but perhaps a better question is: "God, we know you work all things for good, according to your purpose - where is the good in this? Please show me how you will work this seeming tragedy for good!"

*Hugs* Grieve for Charlie, but remember that he is well and happy now.

forweseeinamirrordimly said...

when jesus went to his friends Lazarus' grave, he knew the outcome would be a good one. he knew he would make his friend rise.

but he still wept. i believe he is weeping with you. i'm so sorry.

inthedesert said...

Jesus also was "indignant" at Lazarus' gravesite. He was mad! He hates this thing called death- the unfairness, the absurdity, the pain. Jesus was moved to both tears and indignation-- he was "us"-- both very sorrowful and downright pissed off. My take on that bit of scripture, anyway...

Fran said...

Steve, I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. I'm praying for you and Charlie's family and friends.

Mimi said...

May his Memory be Eternal. Prayers.

samarahuel said...

Yeah, that really stinks. I appreciate your openness about your feelings and reactions to the loss of this dear man. Especially because at the age of 21, I have yet to experience the loss of someone close to me. I kind of fear the day that I will be able to relate to what you're feeling. When I or someone I know is feeling frustrated like you are now, I seem to always think of the story of Job. The last time I turned to the book was when my husband and I learned of his uncle's suicide. Unfortunately, it is a long book and we didn't make it to what I believe is the best part, the last few chapters, where we read the humbling account: "And the LORD said to Job: 'Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.'" I would encourage you to read Job, making sure you get to chapters 40-42. Perhaps even start there. Another source of encouragement might be found in Ecclesiastes 7:1-4. This was the passage taught in my church yesterday. Earlier in this book Solomon says that there is a time for everything; but he goes on in these verses to point out that rejoicing may be good, but sometimes sorrow is better. "The day of death is better than the day of birth" because one who is just born must face a lifetime of trouble on this earth bound by sin. But on the day of death, it is all over, and for one like Charlie who is covered by Christ's blood, it is a far better day. So "by sadness of face the heart is made glad."

wendymhall said...

Steve,
I am so sorry. I have no words. This is a quote from a friend who recently lost her child:

"We were not created for death, you know? We were not created to bump into it, to taste it, to experience it, to understand it. God created us for the Garden, for relationship with Himself, for friendship with the Eternal-- He did not design us for sin and death. It only makes sense that our bodies and spirits and minds would react with such violent passion and repulsion when it touches us." Samantha Hudgens.

You can find her here if you want to read more:

http://thisonetime-samantha.blogspot.com

I'll be thinking of you as you grieve.

DanThoms said...

I understand what its like to experience what certainly seems like a senseless death. I've been there and it was the worst thing I've ever experienced. A kid who was in my Sunday School class was hit by a car and killed less than two years ago. I certainly didn't believe it at the time but there was a lot of good that came from this horrible loss.

Steve Shaw said...

Thank you for your words and inner thoughts. Many of us see ourselves in your reflection.

It is up to us to find, create, nurture and give birth to the good that comes from such a loss. It is up to us to create a net gain. God helps those who help themselves. There are inumerable means, including, as you have already begun, improvement in ourselves.

I am so sorry for your loss and the loss felt by so many.

Anonymous said...

Some buried in my computer I have a google ID but I'm not fighting with it tonight, I'll post as Anonymous. I read your blog weekly but have commented only once or twice.

Steve, I so am so very sorry for the loss of your friend. I too struggle with anger directed soley at God. I don't see anything you said as blasphemous. Though many would probably disagree with me - sorry but I don't care if you do. Jesus got angry at his Father, and quite frankly if it's okay for him, we mere mortals are more than allowed.

With due respect to those that have posted, it is impossible to "celebrate his going to eternal life" when you watch his family collapsing with his sudden loss and struggling to find how they will face tomorrow.

Steve - I will remember all who loved him in my prayers. I will pray they find strength, I will pray they find comforting shoulders to help bear the burden and I will pray they find his memory whispering to them in the breezes.

Margaret (in Manitoba)

Christine said...

Wayne Dyer has said often that in the space of "nowhere" (before birth) and "Now Here" (the difference of a space), we make a contract with God. In that contract, we come up with what we will do on Earth, and when we will leave this Earth. And then we promptly forget about all of it, and perform our mission.

Personally, I find comfort from the idea that we may have pre-determined when we'll go. The idea that Charlie did the one month to live challenge makes me wonder if there is some truth to this.

I lost a loved one this week, too. My thoughts and prayers are with you at this time.

Christine said...

Wayne Dyer has said often that in the space of "nowhere" (before birth) and "Now Here" (the difference of a space), we make a contract with God. In that contract, we come up with what we will do on Earth, and when we will leave this Earth. And then we promptly forget about all of it, and perform our mission.

Personally, I find comfort from the idea that we may have pre-determined when we'll go. The idea that Charlie did the one month to live challenge makes me wonder if there is some truth to this.

I lost a loved one this week, too. My thoughts and prayers are with you at this time.

Ruby Red Slippers said...

I am sorry to hear about your friend dying...

Lydia said...

Hi Steve,

I am so sorry to hear of this loss. It has been a summer of weddings and funerals for me.

I have watched so many suffer so much. I know that it is a part of life, I don't like this part of life. But, somehow I have been given the gift of not needing to know why. Not everyone goes through loss without that question and it is a hard one.

I pray that through your loss and anger, you are able to use this time of loss to draw closer to God and all of His comfort. He never said we wouldn't suffer, but He did say He would help us through. Again, I am so sorry to hear of this loss for you, the church and particularly this good man's family.

Blackbeauty said...

Good morning people!!! Steve, I feel for your loss and his family. May God continue to strenghen you all and may you all find comfort in the beautiful memories you've created and the legacy he's left behind.

~~~ In spririt we press on ~~~

A Modern Ancient said...

"Second, I had a hard time worshipping God. "God is great, God is holy, God is amazing, God is so loving, God is awesome." I don't want to be blasphemous, but I felt none of that this weekend. What is awesome about letting Charlie die? There may be some bigger purpose that I can't see, but on the surface, it seems like a really stupid plan."

Great questions and statements right here.

I think this reveals a severe deficiency in Christian Contemporary Worship... songs of lament.

There is an incredible amount of questioning God, directing anger towards God, and admitting confusion with God throughout the bible. Hell, there is an entire book called Lamentations! Why is there virtually none of that present in contemporary music?

There are a lot of older hymns and spiritual songs that express lament, but those songs have been mostly abandoned by non-denominational / mega-churches. It leads to people feeling like they have to suppress such emotions rather than direct them right back to God.

Great post.

Christina Mullis said...

Hey Steve...WOW! The world is woven in a strange way. Charlie was my oldest brother. Your post expresses exactly what I feel. Amazing how God weaves together a network of lives and they pop in and out just when you need them. Thanks for the amazing heartfelt sentiments.

Christina Matthews-Mullis (from Service Mechandise to refresh your memory).

Anonymous said...

Steve,
I don't know if you will see this since it is over 6 years since your post. I was friends with Charlie in high school. We grew apart, sand lost contact. Today something made me type his name into google. I have just now learned of his passing. I am very saddened by this. I remember Charlie as a good kid. Better than me. I don't want to open old wounds, but could you please tell me how he got sick. What was wrong with him? I am so sad for his family. I hope they have found the strength to carry on.

Steve Fuller said...

Anonymous,

Charlie passed away from pneumonia complications. It was a very unexpected death. I do believe his wife remarried a couple of years ago, but he was a great guy and is definitely still missed by many.