Old Souls, Old Buildings, Young Church
After yesterday, I realize that we don’t do enough parties. We have got to find more reasons to celebrate. Having times where we stop worrying about what is going on around us and just being grateful for what we do have is so good for our individual souls and collective spirit. This month marks one year since our church moved into its own facility, a 70+ year-old building with a 40-year-old house adjacent to it. We renovated the upstairs of the house and the downstairs of the church after we moved in and have made ourselves at home. That our faith community has grown in the past year, that we’ve been able to pay all our expenses and support our ministries and that we’ve been able to do some good events in our neighborhood is a testimony to God being merciful and gracious while also providing so much in talent and resources.
But more than anything, yesterday was about great people. It is no lie and no exaggeration that Canton Adventist has some amazing men and women who have chosen to partner in ministry with it. And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this church has the coolest old people anywhere. And I use old in an affectionate, honoring way. This church has needed its old souls to light the way to the many whippersnappers who are part of this church. Last night was so great because we got to honor Neil and Verna Hadley, the couple who fought to keep this church alive when it didn’t look like it was going to make it and then provided their quiet and calm graciousness as the bedrock upon which this church family has built. The spirit of Canton Adventist is due to Neil and Verna. As part of the evening, we also celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary–an amazing feat and just another reason why the story of their life and ministry needs to be shouted from rooftops.
You know, I wonder what would happen if we just kept spending time appreciating each other rather than worrying about whether our church is successful or not? This church already has an accepting and inviting climate. What if we gave up our preoccupations and ambitions for the idealized church that we all envision in our heads and just treasured the people in our fellowship and our neighbors in the community? We could just be happy to be here. Our current little catchphrase that adorns our bulletin and letterhead is God-Family-Community-Joy. Maybe treasuring the first three really leads to the fourth.
My teaching yesterday was pretty unremarkable. No need to expound on it here other than to say that we did not dedicate our church building yesterday as Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem as the pinnacle of everything strived for. But rather we celebrated yesterday as the Hebrews celebrated the Festival of Booths–remembering that we are on a journey as one little group of God’s people who have moved down the road a little further and have set up camp in a bigger and nicer version of a booth located next to a cemetery in the "Little Mexico" section of Canton. Our journey continues. No matter the neighborhood, no matter the building, what will stay the same is that God is with us, God is leading us and God is bringing us together to transform each other and the people in proximity to us. And he has given us the coolest old people in the world…