It may have been some time since you’ve heard the word, “Groovy.” “Nifty” and “Swell” are dated as well. “Hot diggity dog,” is an exclamation that may never come back.
There’s one I want to talk about. “You’re history.”
This means you are yesterday’s news.
As Harford First Congregational-UCC, the oldest church in the county, celebrates its bicentennial this Sunday, September 25th, I’ve been thinking about history and those who live in the county, or feel connected to the county from a distance.
The oldest church in the county celebrating 200 years is a big deal. Whether you feel connected to Harford or not, you are a big deal, too.
Why? You are history, too.
The Apostle Paul often talks of himself and his history to make his point. Let me do the same. I am the seventh generation here in Harford. In 1790, Nine Partners traveled from Attleboro, MA. I can be traced back to John Carpenter, one of the nine who settled the track of land here in Susquehanna County that includes the church ground. The church property itself, donated by Hosea Tiffany (another partner), was a choice piece of land because of its view and gentle slope.
You may or may not be a descendant of the Nine Partners, but their history, like your history, speaks each day.
Consider John Carpenter. He could not have known that one of his future family members would one day pastor the church he was a part of building. He must have prayed with the church’s first pastor, Ebenezer Kingsbury (1810-1827) about future generations finding their faith. In these prayers, John didn’t mention me by name. He couldn’t have.
He did, however, hear and follow his path like I have followed mine. Whether he could say it or not, he knew his past directed him. His path and past oriented him toward what would be not only for himself and his immediate family, but also for me, the generations between us, and my family’s future.
He knew God. The stories of the people of God may or may not have directly influenced his life choices. I don’t know his spiritual practices, but I surmise John knew—and perhaps named—that this God of ours was generational. He heard Genesis 15, the time in scripture where God led Abraham out into the starry night. Two of those stars father Abraham saw that night when he was promised more descendants than the stars above symbolized John and me.
Find it exciting with me that we are all history. We are all those stars. We have this place—this orientation—this generational gift beyond parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
I get it. Some of us don’t come from religious backgrounds, or some of us scoff at religion. This distance was inherited.
My eyes are open. I get it with you. Faith can be flimsy. Worship practices and participation can be inconsistent (or have non-existent) for eras, but something is bigger, deeper, and wider. That something is God. specifically, that something bigger is God’s relationship with us, and our relationship with God.
As we come closer to this bicentennial, I realize that something so much bigger than me guides me. This isn’t nebulous. This is God.
This isn’t just God with me. This is God for all of us (even those who inherited distance from recent history or brought it on themselves).
We can ignore, downplay, or flat out deny this God, our God, is for all of us. It can be easier to go against the flow rather than go with it. I think we say, “My God…” or “I believe…” too easily these days. While indeed we have a personal God, that is, an in-person God through Jesus Christ, we tend to think we are the first theologists. I say this because we think we arrive at a relationship with God firsthand. We don’t. God—with our questions, our praises, our laments, our denials, our anger, our questions, our inconsistencies, our misunderstandings, our inherited and innate our sin—is the God of all generations ever.
We are neither fresh nor new with this God thing. We inherit this.
I’ll say it again. We are history.
The oldest church in this county—and it is documented proof that Harford First Congregational-UCC is the oldest church in the county—celebrates a history that you are a part of on Sunday, the 25th at 10 AM. Don’t ignore this. Instead, hear this voice of an ancestor from 1790. It is groovy, nifty and swell to think—and then breathe into—a past with our God who, right now, speaks into the present. Your present. And your future.
You are a star, too.