Thursday, December 16, 2010

"The Past is Our Constant Companion"

I am a historian by training, which means that I have a certain concern about the past.  Indeed, I find much that is valuable in the past.  I also live in an ever-changing world that needs to move into the future and not get stuck in the past.  As the pastor of a congregation with a relatively long and in many ways glorious history, I know the temptation to stay with what is tried and true, and yet . . .

So, what shall we do?  I am intrigued by comments made by Doug Pagitt in his latest book Church in the Inventive Age (Sparkhouse Press, 2010).  Doug shared with us some of the insights that make up this book at the Theology after Google conference last March.  I'll be giving a full review when I finish the book, but knowing that Doug is one who is seen by many as cutting edge -- emergent, etc. I found these words intriguing.  He writes that while churches can get stuck in the past, or on the other hand throw off the past with no regard to the strengths of our history, neither approach is helpful.

The past is not our standard.  It is not the test of whether something is right or good.  But it's also not an albatross we need to shuck off as quickly as possible.  The past is our constant companion.  It is always with us.  The question is what do we do with it -- return to it, let it rule, or take its best efforts with us into the future?  (pp. 7-8).
So what shall we do with our history?  Do we cart it around with us as if museum pieces?  Do we dwell in the past?  Or do we let the blessings of our history help frame for us a sense of the journey that our spiritual ancestors took, giving us guidance and wisdom for our journey?  These are questions worth pondering.  

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