This last Sunday afternoon, staying at home was getting a little stale, and we thought that we might take a drive as a family. By this point, just getting out and seeing something other than the inside of our house felt like pretty essential travel. In keeping with the spirit of limiting social contact, we decided to stay on the backroads. We took Frozen Dog Road out of Emmett, which turned into Shalerock Road on the south side of Black Canyon Reservoir. From there, we crossed the river at Montour, then up to Sweet. From the Sweet/Ola Highway, Brownlee Road takes you up to Dry Buck Road. Aren’t these great names for roads? There’s a story behind each one of them.
Anyway, if you take Dry Buck Road north, you’ll eventually come to a fork, with one road headed east down into the Payette River canyon at Banks, and the other continues north to High Valley. Right near that fork, there’s a little church, tucked on a hillside in a small grove of massive Ponderosa pines. The Pinehurst Church was built in 1934, serving a small logging community. It’s a small building, white clapboards with fading green trim, and a little bell-tower cupola. If you look underneath, you can see the rough-sawn logs that form the foundation beams, still holding up the floor.
The windows along the sides of the building were covered with shutters, and Cyrus and Tatia opened one set to see into the front of the sanctuary. The upper sash of the old single-hung windows is divided into nine panes—a large center pane surrounded by small squares on each corner, and rectangular glass on the sides. On this particular window, someone years ago had painted religious symbols on each of the four corner panes. Back in the early years, Pinehurst had been a Foursquare Gospel church, and the four images were representative of what the Foursquare Church believe are the characteristics of Jesus—Jesus the Savior, Baptizer, Healer, and Coming King. By the 1950s, most of the old mills had shut down, and there were only a few families living in the area. Today, all that’s gone. Where there once was a little community, the church is the only remnant.
While the Pinehurst Church still has a lot of particular and personal history attached to it, most of that is lost on the people who witness it today. Today, it stands simply as a church. You can’t confuse this little building with anything other than what it is—a house of worship. The shape of it, the imagery lovingly painted on the windows, the rows of seats and the pulpit, all say without apology that this is a church. On a long board, hung over the front of the sanctuary, are the words from Hebrews 13:8—“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” Of everything that has come and gone in this high-mountain valley, the church remains.
In these days of uncertainty, there are a lot of social institutions that are on fragile footing. When we’re finally able to get out and about again, we may find that some of the businesses that we once patronized are no longer there. The way we interact in the civic arena may change significantly. There may be people we once connected with that we no longer see. We may even have to mourn some who have died while we have been apart. Our ways of life may not be the same. But that little church under the giant pines is a reminder that there are things that do not change. The persistence of God’s people is certain. While Pinehurst Church is more of a symbol of that persistence, the reality is that the true church—the people of God—remain when all else falls away. And there is a good reason for this.
When the author of the letter to the Hebrews wanted to warn his readers of the danger of “strange teaching,” he reminds them of the truth—the same truth that someone decades ago wanted to tell the members of the Pinehurst congregation—Jesus Christ doesn’t change. And we have witnessed change—more every day, it seems. The Pinehurst Church has seen a lot of it over the nearly 90 years since it was built. The Nampa Church of the Brethren has seen a lot over the 120-plus years we’ve been a congregation. All that is nothing compared to the thousands of years that the church has witnessed since Jesus’ day. The church is persistent, for sure. But it is not persistent because of anything inherent in its own character. It is persistent because of the One who gives it life. It is persistent because of the One it follows. It is persistent not because of its practices and patterns of worship, not because of its doctrine or the depth of its pockets or the structural integrity of its buildings. The church persists through all the trial and tribulations, through all the change and disruptions, through all the attacks of “strange teaching,” because of the One who created it, who died for it, and who sustains it—the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Don’t be discouraged. While we are in a time of disruption and we’re not sure what the future will hold, there are two things that we can be sure of. First, and most important, is that Jesus doesn’t change. If you need any evidence of that unchanging love—love that is the same yesterday, today, and forever—then all you need to do is look at the church, which is the second sure thing. For all its faults and failures, for all its shortsightedness and blind stumbles, the church remains. Jesus, who never changes, will lead His people through the trial. The cornerstone is solid and secure. And the shape may shift, and we’ll probably reconsider our practices once in a while, but the heart of the Gospel—that God loves us so much that He sent His Son—will come through the changes unchanged.