It is a joyful day when we get to celebrate a significant anniversary in the life of the church or in the community where we live. Generally, people take a lot of time in planning for significant encounters, careful remembering, and certainly honoring those who have gone before them in the life of the church.
Recently, Bardwell Christian Church, our farthest-west Disciples congregation in Kentucky, celebrated twenty years in their new building. The intention was clear—the day would be a fine occasion for remembering, understanding current life, and welcoming the wide net of support and love for this congregation. Building this new facility gave the congregation a completely accessible place for their base of operations. The builder, also a member of another Disciple congregation in the West Area, spoke eloquently about the care and thought that went into the design of even the smallest details of the building. Calling attention to the molding surrounding the windows, he talked about the curve of that echoing the graceful lines of the antique elder and minister chairs on the chancel.
Vintage windows came to the new home as well as brand-new acoustics and furnishings, making this a place for all people to feel comfortable, and to engage in worship.
What is it about celebrations like this that can help us focus our energy and our direction? We can consider the words attributed to Shakespeare, “The past is prologue.” From his play, “The Tempest,” Shakespeare makes a grand statement that is /can be true for churches, especially. Also inscribed on the pillar entering the National Archives Building in Washington, this statement has a lot to say to churches. If we can pay careful attention to what we have done, then we are able to turn toward the future and know that our work, our ministry is not complete. What we have said about ourselves, and what the evidence shows about our church in these wonderful celebrations helps us to consider what we might be called to continue or start anew.
Bourke Mantle, chair of the board at Bardwell Christian, said the best thing about the anniversary celebration was the fact that every part of the day fit together. The remembering, the welcoming of former members, the worship service and presentation of guests, and especially the use of every part of the building and grounds for the day made it clear the congregation had a long history/mission of which to be proud and happy. Wonderful food and a country gospel outdoor concert concluded the day for this congregation.
“The past is prologue,” then, can be an excellent way for a congregation to have a pivot point into the future, whatever it looks like. It is important to mark special occasions and to be mindful of what comes next. We hope to enjoy such remembrances, but we also, as lively Christian communities, want to ensure we have a next step. What we have done certainly speaks well of our church intention and focus on ministry where we are; but celebration can also be the call to move forward, to take the prologue on to the rest of the story. As you plan special observances of significant times in the life of your church and community, remember the blessing of intention, the hope of a lively path along the way to the future. We are a people whose lives are directed by the book of past and prologue made real throughout God’s history among us. What are your plans for celebration and intention in the next few years?