“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:18-19a)
Canal-side in Buffalo has become a gathering place for tens of thousands of people who come to relax and play and within a few years live in a re-created neighborhood that pays homage to the past. It goes without saying that the opening of the Erie Canal made Buffalo, and its fortunes and misfortunes played a corresponding role in the city’s history. As part of the ongoing renaissance of Buffalo, Canal-side is taking a page out of the history books to reinvent itself going forward.
In the past few years, the original canals have been located and unearthed and rewatered. The original street grid has been put back in place as well as the “Commercial Slip,” It’s recently been announced that soon apartments and stores will grace the the street grids and re-watered canals creating a new community that pays homage to the old. And from the look of artist renderings, it appears it will do just that.
But just exactly how much of the past do we want in our future? A recent article in the Buffalo News tells of a less than romantic account of what the past at Canal-side was really like:
From the Buffalo Evening News in 1903:
The extent to which vice flourishes at the Canal street region, or the “infected district,” as it is called, is pointedly shown in a large wall chart just issued by the Christian Homestead Association, which is doing mission work in that district. Staff Captain Cox of the Salvation Army, who has been in the slums in all the large cities in the world, says the district is the worst he ever saw, with the single exception of a street in Bombay. The chart shows the location of 108 saloons, 19 free theater saloons, 75 houses of ill-fame and 75 second-hand clothing stores, barber shops, restaurants and other legitimate places. It is issued for the purpose of bringing forcibly to the attention of the people of Buffalo the iniquity of that district, and to get them interested in the work of the Rescue Mission, which is maintained entirely by subscriptions. (August 21, 2018 Buffalo News)
Now I know it goes without saying that its not the intention of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation to set about re-creating the “infected district,” but there is no denying the fact that this was life at Canal-side that point in time. And to just forget about the fact that it was an infected district is to deny the work of those who worked so hard to overcome it.
So just what are we supposed to do with a past that cannot be forgotten? I again refer to Laurence Stookey’s book, “Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church,” where he states; “Christians are called to assume the cruciform posture: Standing upright with feet firmly planted in the present, we stretch out one arm to grasp our heritage and the other arm to lay hold of our hope; standing thus, we assume the shape of our central symbol of faith: the cross. If either hand releases its grip, spiritual disaster threatens as the sign of the cross becomes misformed.” (p.22) It is in this position that we can be grateful for what was good, repent of what wasn’t and trust in a God who is sovereign over all of it.
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1 NIV)
1 Corinthians 12:27 “Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it.”
dictionary.com Unity: a state of being one. A whole or totality as combining all its parts into one.
It’s interesting to see what we can accomplish when we all come together as one. This beautiful cross was conceived in the mind’s eye of one and was the product of many coming together for an all ages Lenten Sunday School event. People aged 5 through 80’s came together and each one contributed based on the skills they possessed. I remember participating in the event surrounded by people with much greater art skills than myself. After a few moments of questioning as to whether my art was worthy of the project, I settled down and just started to color. At the end of our time, I submitted my work and promptly forgot about it.
On Easter Morning, I couldn’t contain my joy and excitement when the cross was “presented.” It’s truly beautiful isn’t it? I was surprised to see my contribution on that cross along with everybody else's. That elevated my spirit tremendously. It really got me thinking about what we can do when we put our minds and talents to a common goal. A vision was brought to reality by bringing together the various “parts” of the body into one integrated whole. Each one had a hand in bringing the vision to reality. And questions of worthiness were long replaced by the joy and excitement of the finished product.
Celebrate Baker 360 is an opportunity to bring together various “parts” of the body of Christ that is Baker Memorial United Methodist Church. Our time together will offer us an opportunity to experience the continuing narrative that is our past and present, as well as anticipate and have a hand in creating the narrative that will drive our church into the future. I hope to see you there.
CB 360 #2
Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things God does for me. (Psalm 103:2 NLT)
Commentators believe that David was the author of numerous psalms and they attribute psalm 103 as being one of them. Acts 13:22 tells us that God testified David was a man after God’s own heart and said David: “Will do everything I want him to.” David felt that it was a good thing to never forget the good things that God has done for us. But he also knew our propensity to forget those good things (Psalm 73, 103, 106, 107, 137 Yikes!) and the peril that seems to result when we do.
It does seem like a good thing for Christ followers to remember the good things the Lord has done for us doesn’t it? It would seem to go without saying but with all the worldly pressures upon us to YOLO (you-only-live-once) and “live in the present moment,” we sometimes forget that we live at the intersection of time and eternity (Stookey: “Calender: Christ’s Time for the Church,” p.19-20).
Stookey tells us that the past, present, and the future are not separate containers isolated from one another. The present is actually a moving edge from the past to the future in the time continuum. In simple terms he shows us the past influences where we are in the present and our choices in the present have an influence on a not-yet future. Living at the intersection of time and eternity is to acknowledge the need to integrate all three holistically. To put our
greatest emphasis on the present without regard for where we’ve come from or where we’re going is like a sailing ship set adrift at the mercy of whatever way the wind happens to be blowing.
Celebrate Baker 360 (September 28 and 29th) is a proactive approach to
remember (past) the good things the Lord has done for our church and give thanks, see where the moving edge currently stands (present), and anticipate a not-yet future, discerning where the Lord is leading and having a hand in creating it. It is to acknowledge that we really do live at the intersection of time and eternity. It’s the realization that this church has been given to us, and we have the responsibility to care for it in such a way that we can hand it over to
future generations so they too can be God’s grace instruments in God’s world.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words;