September 2010

Anniversaries

It’s been thirty years since our church was “reborn”.  In April of 1980, the people of the Reformed Church of Spring Valley and the people of the First Congregational Church of Spring Valley became one new church: the United Church of Spring Valley!  The two uniting churches had a long and collaborative relationship in this community.  They had leaned on one another from time to time.  Finally the time came when it was right to unite, and as they say: the rest is history!

            I believe anniversaries are important.  At the moment, I can’t think of a holiday that isn’t an anniversary of some kind.  Birthdays, weddings, historic events like the Fourth of July, and religious events like Easter or Passover; these are all anniversaries.  We observe them in order to remember the events and honor them.  Joyous events call for celebrations.  Of course there are sad and tragic events with losses.  We remember Pearl Harbor and 9/11.  We remember the death of a loved one.  We also honor these events, and those involved, with our memories and the traditions we maintain around them.  All anniversaries are important.

            The Anniversaries of our church are important.  That would be true every year, but on special multiples, we should throw special parties.  Nora and I celebrate our wedding anniversary each year.  We were married on June 9, 1973.  A typical anniversary celebration would include a dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants, some flowers, and perhaps a small gift.  But every five years, we go on a great trip.  That started on our 25th wedding anniversary when we took our first cruise.  It went from Athens to Istanbul with stops at Santorini, Rhodes, and Kusadasi/Ephesus.  It was fabulous!  We loved every moment and determined to do it again every five years.  On our 30th anniversary, we cruised the Baltic Sea: Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Gdansk, and Oslo.  Wow!  We were headed to Alaska on our 35th anniversary, but my hospitalization stopped that one.  (Thank goodness for trip cancellation insurance!)  We are already dreaming up plans for number 40 in 2013.  We believe in anniversaries!

            I hope you will join in our celebration of our church’s anniversaries!  I use the plural because our church and its two predecessor churches have overlapping anniversaries that are virtually all multiples of 5.  United Church of Spring Valley is 30 years old; the Reformed Church of Spring Valley would be 145 years old; and the First Congregational Church of Spring Valley would be 125 years old.  We need to remember and celebrate the history of our church and the shoulders upon which we stand.  We need to celebrate the ministries and missions undertaken here over these many years.  We need to look back with respect and appreciation at the challenges of those decades and all that our predecessors accomplished.  Think of all that has happened over those years beginning just as the Civil War was ending.  Remember the two world wars and all the others since.  Remember the Great Depression and all the ups and downs of the economy since then, right down to today.  Remember the riots in our cities, the struggle against racism, and the deep divisions in our country over the war in Vietnam and the war on poverty.  Our church was in ministry here in this community through it all.  Do you remember? 

            There are new wars and new struggles in our day.  There are new challenges and new opportunities for today.  We look back and remember in order to look forward with faith to God’s unfolding call for us.  What does God call us to be and do in this next decade of our church’s life?  What will our ministry and mission look like in the 2010’s?  How well will we carry forward the banner that has been handed to us by the men and women who worshipped and served before us through this church?  What do we dare dream for ourselves, and what elbow grease will we bring to the dreams?

            We must make opportunities this fall to ask and answer these questions.  We must listen to each other.  In our speaking, we may hear God speak.  Remember what one of our denominations (the UCC) has proclaimed:  God Is Still Speaking! 

Watch this!  http://www.ucc.org/god-is-still-speaking/ads/