Tying It All Together
When God created us, God gave us a special gift unique to human beings. It has to do with our ability to think. Of course, other animals can think—they have a sort of rationality we recognize. What sets humans apart is our ability to think about thinking. Put differently, we have an awareness that ties our past, present, and future together in, what we experience as, a long and consistent chain of consciousness. Not only do we have memories, for instance, we can recall those memories, enjoy them, study them, and in some ways re-live them as often as we need to. It is our memories that give us the wisdom we need to flourish in the present, and the confidence that our lives will continue to have meaning in the future.
The church, from its earliest days, has recognized the need to be intentional about attending to memory. Every Sunday we eat a meal that recalls for us the saving love of God that has formed us into the people we are—which calls attention to a larger, but often unremarked truth: communities have memories. And community memory must be just as assiduously attended as our personal memories. In fact, we say that the table set by Lord is a table of remembrance. Every time we gather around that table we set about the practice of remembering. But a big part of what communion accomplishes goes beyond rehearsing the story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection—as important as that is. As the body of Christ, every time we come to the table we not only remember, but we re-member everyone who gathers around the table with us, past, present, and future. In other words, the body of Christ consists of all those members who not only spread across the globe, but who spread across time. We are who we are because of those who’ve gone before, and those whose way we are presently preparing.
Douglass Boulevard Christian Church has a memory that stretches over parts of three centuries. At present we‘re experiencing feelings of great anticipation about what the future holds. We’ve had many new faces in our midst who lead us to think about the possibilities ahead of us, and that alert us to God’s movement in our community. It’s an exciting time to be at DBCC.
But as aware of the future as we are, we cannot leave the past behind. As William Faulkner said, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” That is no less true in the church, where, surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, we’re aware that who we are is inexorably linked to who we’ve been. As we chart new courses, discerning God’s future, it’s important to remind ourselves that we’re not departing from or abandoning our past, we’re extending it. That is to say, we’re carrying it with us everywhere we go, with everything we do (whether we want to or not). The new kinds of ministries we’re engaged in at DBCC aren’t a departure from, but a continuation of the kinds of ministries we’ve always been engaged in—social justice, spirituality, compassion, and education. We are busy carrying on the tradition that was lovingly stewarded, then handed down to us by those who came before.
On the surface, what we do may look different from what we’ve done in the past, but at its heart, our first responsibility—which is to to equip disciples for the reign of God—remains the same; and it ties together our past, our present, and our future.