As of last Monday, members of Cross Culture, a small church that has met at Eastgate Town Center for the last six years, were homeless.
But that won't keep them from meeting tomorrow, on Easter Sunday, the most holy day in the Christian church year.
Just across the parking lot from Eastgate, at the Brainerd Mission Cemetery, they'll convene at 7:15 a.m., three minutes before the official sunrise.
There, according to Dr. Korbet Swope, the church's pastor, they'll begin to pray. They'll pray for intercession for all the churches in the area, for pastors and for the people who'll be attending church only because of the high holy day.
"We'll pray that the Lord would move, that souls would be saved, that people would find God," he said.
They'll pray formally, he said, for an hour and then invite people to stay and be in the spirit of prayer until about 9:40
a.m. At that point, he said, they'll prepare for their regular weekly service, which will also be held in the cemetery.
Swope said the church has felt a kinship with the mission, where missionaries worked with the Cherokee Indians between 1818 and 1838, since the church moved to Eastgate after a series of what he considered miracles or at least providential occurrences.
"We consider ourselves to be missionaries," he said. "Our heart is in missions, we want to be a missionary church, we want to be an outreach locally as we can."
Swope said after the church hurriedly stored its stuff earlier this week, members of Cross Culture felt a bit like the Israelites, who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before crossing the Jordan River into the promised land of Canaan.
"The Lord has brought us on a journey over the past six years," he said. "It mirrored what we read about the children of Israel. We've seen so many parallels and similarities."
Indeed, Swope said, the day they moved out of Eastgate was the day the Israelites were supposed to have crossed the Jordan into the promised land. Other significant events in the church's brief existence have occurred on Valentine's Day and Good Friday, he said.
"We believe there's a timing issue," he said. "This just may be the next step in the growth of our church. We're ready to grow."
For the first year of Cross Culture's existence, members set up, took down and stored items needed for worship every week at a Comfort Inn in East Ridge. Then, for the first three years at Eastgate, they did the same thing.
Set up. Take down. Store.
Finally, in late December 2009, they signed a two-year lease for a specific space in the former shopping mall. After the original lease was up, the leases were month to month.
In late February, though, they were told they would need to move. A larger tenant needed the space. They had to be out within a month.
"We knew it was a possibility at any time," Swope said. "Eastgate has been very generous with us."
Nevertheless, as in Hosea where a horrible atrocity was turned into "a door of hope," he believes there is a new home for his flock of 30.
Swope would like it to be the former U.S. Postal Service building adjacent to the Brainerd Mission Cemetery. Now owned by the city of Chattanooga, it's been vacant for two years.
He's been turned down in his bid by a City Council member but hopes Mayor Ron Littlefield might intercede.
"We're looking for him to do a miracle," Swope said. "The ground [of the cemetery] has been opened to us for Sunday. Beyond that, we have no home."
Easter is a day of miracles. Cross Culture members are hoping there's one out there for them.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...