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A Trip Down Memory Lane. . .


Recently one of my teammates from college has been scanning and posting pictures of our track team on a Facebook page devoted to alumni of the team. It has truly been a trip down memory lane for me! Some of the pictures I remember quite well. . . and others I cannot recall at all!  Faces I haven’t seen in over 20 years I struggle to find the names to go with them and others’ images I see I’m happy to see because I haven’t thought about them in so long that is seems surreal that we even knew each other once, in a former life, as young athletes who practiced, cheered one another on, won and lost together.  This prompted me to go to my childhood home last week and ask my mother if she knew where my old photographs from college were located.  We searched a couple of closets, the basement and back to the closet in my old room.  There I found three old and yellowed scrapbooks with newspaper clippings falling out because the glue had lost its stickiness over the years. I found three shoe boxes full of photos I had stashed away long ago. I began to reread news stories about myself from High School and College. . . things I didn’t remember at all popped up in those words, records I set, races I’d won, points I’d scored, accolades I received as an athlete.  What a trip! I realized that in my memory I had held onto to many, many negative memories and pushed the good ones away.  Pain will do that to you sometimes! So it was rather cathartic to read about the successes I’d had and replace bad memories of my young adulthood with this “new” information. Positive information.

Me and my 4×400 teammates/friends in 1990 indoor season.

How often in the church do we either remember the past as the “good old days” and label the present as something that is deficient? “Things were never like this before,” we bemoan!   “Life was so much easier back then,” our elders say to us. Or perhaps we remember the pain of parish life which keeps us from truly enjoying the faith community that we are a part of today.  “They hurt me when they criticized my efforts and I have a hard time trusting people around here anymore,” some lament. We can get stuck in “what was” or “what isn’t” or “what will never be” rather than rejoicing at “what is.”

In the building I call “church” I can walk from west to east starting in the sanctuary then to the hallway through the fellowship hall, past the kitchen and into the Sunday School rooms and think about every generation that has been a part of Trinity Lutheran Church, Monroeville, Ohio. The saints who came before me in the last 1880’s who were Presbyterian who built the worship space with all of its gingerbread style beams in the ceiling. . . the Lutherans in the 1920’s who wanted a church “in town” because they were tired of riding their horses five miles southwest to the only Lutheran Church around so they bought the Presbyterian church and chartered a new Lutheran congregation. . . the disciples in the 1940’s who built on two large rooms to the east of the sanctuary, expanded a back wall and put on a sacristy. . . those who faithfully funded the fellowship hall in the 1970’s as the ministry expanded further. . . and then in 2004 when children were bursting through the doors and had no real Sunday School rooms to speak of, the faithful built eight beautiful classrooms with air conditioning! So many memories in that place! Many things that have been forgotten for sure and many things that only a few remember.  Some things have been rewritten in memories in a way that they probably didn’t happen and many things seem sunnier now depending on who you talk to!

Taking a trip down memory lane once in awhile reminds us of who we are and whose we are.  We are community. We are beloved children of God (every day). We are the faithful (most days). We are disciples (most days again). We are generations of families and friends who love Christ, the church and the village we reside in. . . we fight sometimes, we make up, we laugh, we cry, we do nice things and forget about them, we have failures and we have successes. But knowing where we came from, where we’ve been, how we got there and where we are headed is an important part of who we are.  It’s our identity- good or bad, ugly or lovely. Our memories aren’t always reliable but they are useful. . . for me it was healing to see faces I hadn’t seen for a long time, to remember things that seemed like life or death and really weren’t, to smile at images of all of us having fun and remembering that that track team was my family for four years. . . and the church has been my family for almost 44.

How do we get our congregations to recall their history? All of it? How do we get the conversation going about who we are, where we’ve come from, where we are going and where God has been and is in the midst of all of that history? Perhaps it could help us put some old grievances to rest and heal some old wounds. . . paving the way to a healthier, more mission oriented present and future? Is it time to get the old shoeboxes out and start going through the pictures?

God’s blessings!


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