She was only a child at the time, but Sandy Bach clearly recalls the moment she recognized the presence of God, something she is more thankful for today than ever before.
Sharing her testimony at the Community Thanksgiving Service in Cleveland on Nov. 17, Bach, who has been pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Cleveland since 2008, said she distinctly remembers her 8-year-old self wandering through the church grounds in Southern California after excusing herself from a potluck dinner where most of the congregants remained. As she stepped outdoors she said the sun was setting, “It was one of those sunsets that make you stop and look,” she said, recalling it was as if sunbeams of reds and golds led her to the big doors leading into the church’s sanctuary. She reached for the handle and discovered it was unlocked. “They were never unlocked,” she recalled. She contemplated taking a step inside, but hesitated due to the “rules” intended for someone her age to not be in there alone. It was as if a spiritual nudge gave her permission and she mustered the courage to continue her journey. As she made her way to the other side of the doors she walked to the sanctuary’s entrance and suddenly found herself awash in even more vivid colors than she’d seen in the westward sky moments before. The hues seemed to dance from one side of the room to the other as she, like a ballerina in a jewelry box, found herself spinning around to identify the source of the brilliant, mystical lights. She quickly realized it was the sun peering through the floor-to-ceiling intricate stained glass windows lining both sides of the sanctuary.
In amazement at the color around her, she paused part way up the center aisle as she felt a presence — a feeling she’d never experienced before. “I sensed a voice assuring me that I’d never be alone,” she said.
And that was when Pastor Bach, who now ministers to Cleveland’s combined Presbyterian and Methodist fellowship, met God.
At this time of Thanksgiving, Pastor Bach said she finds herself pondering all the times God has reminded her of that promise over the course of 67 years. Most recently, God’s presence was near as she dealt with a loneliness that only those who have been widowed can understand. Her husband, Tom, died in October, on their 45th wedding anniversary, after years of battling an illness. “He was 16 when he was diagnosed and given only 20 years to live. We had 25 bonus years,” a thankful pastor said.
Some may say it was simple curiosity that led a little girl to lose herself in a sunset-filled sanctuary. Pastor Bach knows better and she is thankful her young self had the courage to enter that sanctuary, where she was captivated by not just a stained glass filtered light show, but by God himself, who was waiting just for her.