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Wednesday, May 28, 2014
We share as today’s reflection words from Dr. Charles Wood’s
address to the young people of Fourth Church
during dedication week 1914, words about how it is
that as a church—and also as individuals—
we hear and continually respond to God's call
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 2:5–6, 9–10
Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:
“See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy. (NRSV)
There are, of course, at least two things for the church to do when it finds itself called a downtown church. It may give itself to retrospection, to reminiscence; it may remember the days of old; it may count and recount the distinct men and women that used to sit in those now empty pews. Most reach what has been felicitously and facetiously called the “anecdotage era,” and there are many of our downtown churches stagnating there. Their faces are turned to the past; there is very little attractive in the present and nothing bright for anticipation in the future.
The only other alternative then ordinarily before a downtown church that is tired of retrospection and reminiscing is retreat—retreat in good order and with as much dignity as possible along the well-beaten lines of those who have moved out of that particular locality into the suburbs. ...
Now, the third possibility for a downtown church is that of consideration, reconsideration, reconnoitering, studying the field in which it finds itself, seeing the new possibilities of that field, and then readjustment and rearrangement. … Some of the church’s good friends said that there were pathetic conditions to face; others said they were full of promise and of hope under these conditions, that it was no longer possible for this church to go on just as it had been going and be successful, but it must enlarge, readjust, readapt itself to the community in which it has found itself. And this great undertaking is the answer which this church has given. …
We pay attention to the prophetic signs we have already seen, making bright the sky, and may the hour of gladness be realized. I think this is the authentic sign that God had, that God makes us more glad and more glad until its gladness blossoms and then bursts into a flower.
As we go out into this world, may we do so, dear Lord, responding to the need of the community. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Amen.
Written by Dr. Charles Wood
Addressing the Young People of Fourth Church during dedication week, 1914
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