Just days after the massacre of children in a Texas school, Pastor Amy Moorehouse of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Lenoir City brought a question to her congregation.
“How does a God of justice and deliverance, in whom I believe, in whom I trust, in whom I have known the length of my life, how does a just God allow these things that break our hearts to happen?” she asked.
In the Episcopal faith it is permitted to ask such questions without questioning ones’ faith, she said. The search for an answer is the reason we are set on this journey as human beings to live and learn, Moorehouse said.
Her sermon quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “There is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
She said that man is not powerless before evil. God’s creation and God’s people labor for justice, goodness and joy. God calls each of us to join in that loving work.
“When we join together as a community of faith we can challenge one another to see clearly with eyes of love,” she said.
Moorehouse has been the pastor at Resurrection for five years. She said that the congregation is the most loving and giving group of people she has ever met. The church is the first congregation she has pastored since graduating from Seminary School in Denver. Previously she had been a student minister at the University of Tennessee, where she studied English Literature.
Moorehouse was a good fit for the church, said Jean Cardwell, one of the founding members.
“She’s been absolutely wonderful, just what we needed at that time,” she said.
The Church of the Resurrection was founded in 1953 when a group of about a half dozen people, including Cardwell, met in a home once a month for worship services. As the congregation doubled in size and then tripled by 1957, services were held Sunday evenings.
“There were not enough priests available yet that we could have a priest for Sunday morning services,” Cardwell said.
In 1964, a building fund was started and the church was accepted by the Diocese as The Church of the Resurrection. A six acre tract of land where the church now sits off of Highway 11 was purchased along with a house in which services were held.
The land was open farmland at the time. Today, the grounds of the church are sheltered in the shade of hundreds of mature trees, most of them planted by the congregation in the ensuing years. They also constructed a memorial garden with a stone wall on which bronze plaques with the names of benefactors and parish members have been attached. The congregation also scatters or inters ashes in the garden.
In 1977, construction began on the current sanctuary. Built on a Carpenter’s Gothic style, so called because of the prolific use of wood, the church held its first service Easter Sunday in 1978.
A parish hall was built in 1988 and is the location of many activities not necessarily of the church but of the community.
“We like our space to be opened for others,” Moorehouse said.
The church is in the process of reopening after halting in-person worship services for about a year during the pandemic. The church quickly learned how to hold services virtually using the internet. One part of the faith that could not be practiced virtually was the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Closing down worship services was the last thing any church wanted to do, Moorehouse said. The church believes that science is a blessing from God and for that reason following the science in preventing the spread of COVID and protecting the community was also following the will of God.
“People did the best to hold each other up,” Moorehouse said.
Moorehouse said she made an effort to keep the congregation close and safe by visiting every member at home to learn more about their stress, their grief and their needs.
She said she worked hard to understand the pandemic, just as she tried hard to understand the mass shooting in Texas. In the case of the pandemic, she said it was God’s will that he charged us with taking care of others.
The church participates in local non-profits, particularly Habitat for Humanity, and other organizations that help others, including Alcoholics Anonymous, which meets regularly on the church grounds. Last year, the congregation wrote thank you cards to Loudon County teachers to make sure they knew they were appreciated.
Moorehouse herself has participated in mission work in Tanzania where she helped ordain the first group of women clergy.
“I pray for those women every day,” she said.
The church continues to support those women and their congregations, supporting a school and a project to provide a well. Other local outreach efforts include working with Habitat for Humanity and the Good Samaritan Center.