Dear Members and Friends,
When Western Europeans began to settle in Massachusetts, the region became known for its farming. As time passed, mills and other manufacturing facilities, powered by rivers and streams, were built. When the transition from farming to manufacturing and mills took place, farmland that no longer was needed either turned into housing or returned to their original state. The economy changed. Manufacturing of all kinds moved to other regions of the country and world. One by one, mills went silent. Massive complexes sat empty, decaying, becoming a blight. Tragic. Many bemoaned the loss of manufacturing, and yet the region wasn’t suffering economically. The cost to retain manufacturing, retool the factories as functioning plants simply was not cost effective. Literally a whole industry was dead.
Change is happening. Many of those now defunct manufacturing facilities are being refurbished, not for manufacturing but for other purposes. For that to happen, people had to let go of “old ideas/old intentions/old purposes”. Only then could something new be born. It isn’t saying the “original” wasn’t good, because it was. It simply had lived out its purpose, and there came a time for something new to be born.
Today, you can find old mills converted into coveted, high end studio apartments (their location along rivers and streams only adding to their value). You can find mills converted into classy eating establishments. They are particularly popular locations for micro breweries. One spots day cares and pre-schools, gaming places for laser tag, offices. In South Carolina, I even saw one converted into a hospital and doctors offices. Each of these calls for a re-visioning. The old has to die before new life can and could be born. Think of it as the body being placed in the tomb, and then resurrection.
Holy Island (Lindisfarne), England, a destination point for those seeking spiritual locations that are Christian. One of the churches on the island was a part of our partner denomination, the United Reformed Church. Today it is a retreat/meeting center. The pews and pulpit are gone. When one steps into the building that had housed a worshiping congregation, there is lots of open space, a kitchenette, lounge chairs, modern art. It is now a meeting space, where one feels like they are stepping into a spiritual center, an oasis if you will. That transformation didn’t just happen. Before it happened, the church went through a long period of decline. It was only AFTER the last member died, that the United Reformed Church was able to step in and make changes so that it could be reborn as a spiritual center. I find it sad that the transformation had to wait for the last living member to die before it could happen, but that is all to often the case.
I am talking about this because we are an Easter people. When we talk about being an Easter people, it is about Jesus’ resurrection AND it is our belief that God can and does bring new life. It can be into our own lives as individuals, and it can come into our institutions.
As people of faith, we often have to think about how we can re-frame how we go about being the people of God. Part of that often means our letting something die, so that something new can come to life. A better approach would be to allow for change to happen in the present; however, we are all to often overly invested in how we are doing things in the present.
Isn’t this the point of recycling. At its most basic recycling can be taking old soda cans and making new soda cans OR it can be about taking plastic bags and bottles and turn them into something totally different, like a park bench.
I had a mother-in-law who used to talk about retirement as getting a new set of tires. It was her way of saying that retirement wasn’t just for lounging, vacation trips, and golf courses. Thankfully this congregation has a lot of people who understand that sense of “retirement” and invest their newly found energy in lots of ways that help this church and community.
The Congregational Church of Littleton (CCoL) has a LOT of life. At the same time, I notice on Sunday mornings how we trend toward people like myself (grey hair), with few young adults. I find myself thinking about the fact that many who call themselves Millennials or Generation X, think of us like an old mill and don’t see the relevance of our Christian faith. How do we re-invent our message and worship so that it has new life? Can we do that re-inventing as a process? Can we re-think in the present, whether we are talking use of the building, the Christian Education program, or worship?