A monthly column for the PC(USA) by the General Assembly Stated Clerk
June 9, 2010
Recently, I was invited to preach at the 150th anniversary of the First Presbyterian Church of Fairborn, Ohio. It was a grand occasion with good music, good stories, and good fellowship — despite the lack of any charter members.
This congregation has an interesting history. In the early part of the 1900s, they were the First Presbyterian Church of Osborne. They had a very fine brick Victorian Gothic church like many across the country in that period.
Then the Great Dayton Flood of 1913 hit. It caused huge damage and led to the first flood district control in the nation. It also led to the building of the Huffman Dam on the Mad River, which meant that Osborne would be flooded by the new lake. Unfortunately, the congregation of First Church had a grand brick building that could not be moved.
The debate ensued over whether to disband or move the church. I can only imagine how members of the congregation dreaded the thought of leaving their fine brick building. And yet, the brick would not survive the new lake or the move to another location.
In the end, the congregation decided not to disband, but to purchase a wood-frame Methodist church building because it could be moved to a new location above the new lake. It probably was a hard transition for those for whom brick had represented permanence, while wood would represent the transitory.
Yet, nearly 100 years later, that congregation is still engaged in ministry.
Like every other organization in the world, the church is faced with a flood of new situations and challenges. Bookstores are full of works by authors trying to predict the future. By my read, no one has a lock on what the church will look like in twenty years.
But this I know. We need to be ready to make brave decisions like the good folks of First Presbyterian Church of Fairborn, Ohio. We need to be ready to leave what seems permanent for what is actually able to keep us faithful as a servant people following God into tomorrow