Monday, August 29, 2011

Reflections on an Anniversary

Yesterday my parish celebrated its 125th anniversary.  In 1886, gathering in a log cabin structure, they made a beginning in the yet unbroken wilderness of northern Wisconsin that would later become a thriving rural parish. Times such as this give pause for reflection and an opportunity to gain perspective.  Many congregations, like people, are known to go through periods of panic and concern, especially when giving wanes and pews are empty.  They look to the unknown future and predict a dismal outcome.  Unfortunately such forecasting is terribly shortsighted.  Looking back we realize that we have lived through times far more challenging than anything recently experienced.  Certainly the Great Depression should have signaled our demise when economic distress reached its critical heights.  Yet still St. Peter congregation survived. 

  • Anniversaries remind the parish that it is all about God's grace.  Looking back they should be humbled to realize that they could never have accomplished what they did without God's enduring help. 
  • Anniversaries keep the congregation connected with their past and thus inoculated against too much innovation.  We are the stewards of treasures entrusted to us, not wrecking crews just waiting to dismantle the old structures.  
  • Anniversaries remind communities that stable and faithful parishes are often the ones that have lasted the years, not the new upstarts that occur with each new trend. 
  • Anniversaries help people recapture the spirit of their ancestors who possessed a true sense of mission.  They existed to keep the gospel before isolated immigrants and scattered homesteaders.  Today we too often allow our churches to be self-serving and far too introspective. 
  • Anniversaries allow us to have a true sense of joy and celebration when darker voices wish to pull the parish down in negative thinking.  
Certainly more thoughts will come to mind later, but these are a few on the day after....

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