'We got $1,000 from an atheist': Amid lots of bad news, here's an inspiring Easter story you must read

The Easter Sunday massacre in Sri Lanka has dominated religion headlines the last few days, and rightly so.

That depressing news came on the heels of last week’s catastrophic Holy Week fire that ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

As Anne Murray sang, “We sure could use a little good news today.”

I found some in a rather unexpected place: a Washington Post story about one of the three predominantly black Louisiana churches recently destroyed by arson.

Now, you wouldn’t expect a report on a burned church to be inspiring. Yet this one was:

Give credit to the Post for sending a reporter to cover the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church’s Easter Sunday worship at its temporary home:

OPELOUSAS, La. — In a quiet lobby off the main hall at the Equine Sales Company, a livestock auction house that doubles as an event space, Gerald Toussaint, 56, sat quietly Sunday morning with his personal leather-bound Bible. 

He wore a navy suit, tie, shoes and hat, and he kept in his pocket a white towel embroidered with “RGT,” for Reverend Gerald Toussaint. “I get sweaty,” he explained.

Toussaint was preparing to deliver an Easter sermon to the congregation of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, where he has pastored for 13 years and where his father led for 21 years before him.

Sunday’s sermon was especially meaningful because, as Toussaint put it, “Somebody decided to burn our church down.”

But keep reading, and this much becomes obvious: The heart — the soul — of the congregation remains fully intact.

And the symbolism of Resurrection Day on this moment in Mount Pleasant Baptist’s history isn’t lost on the pastor or the people in the makeshift pews:

“Resurrection is a new beginning,” he said. “It was dark the day Jesus was crucified. It was a dark night they burned the church.”

What has happened since, Toussaint said, “is like a resurrection. A new start. Old things are gone, but it’s going to be a new start after.”

The Post story is full of so many colorful and revealing details, such as these:

Before services began, members worked to turn the space into a makeshift church, using binder clips to pin white tablecloths down, turning on battery-operated votive candles and configuring extension chords to plug in the sole keyboard that would provide the day’s music. Through the back windows, massive horse stables and sprawling green fields were visible.

The burning of three small country churches in Louisiana initially drew little national attention, but the fire at France’s Notre Dame on April 15 inspired support for the Louisiana churches as well.

Perhaps my favorite quote was this:

“We got $1,000 from an atheist,” Toussaint said with a laugh. “He said he didn’t believe in God, but he don’t believe in burning buildings down, either.”

I’ll resist the temptation to copy and paste the entire story. It really is an encouraging piece.

Go ahead and read it.

Read it all.

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