(Finn and Jake join me in the office)
For most of the day it rained in the Ville, so I was stuck inside where I cleared out my office and began to put my stamp on it. By my best estimate, I cleared over 60 years worth of books covering who knows how many pastors. I'm pretty sensitive when it comes to books and the history that they represent. It was interesting and funny as I went through them, one by one, I felt like I could develop mental pictures of the men that preceded me. Evidently someone was a huge Billy Graham fan, while another was a fan of old school science fiction as evidenced by the impressive collection of Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke. I was evidently preceded at some point by a kindred soul given the sheer amount of Christmas books I uncovered. I'm also a pretty sure we had a closet Presbyterian in our midst and someone else, well, I can't quite get a read on them aside from the idea that they really liked fictionalized accounts of Biblical stories featuring Harlequin novel type covers (lol). I mean, one had Ruth wrapped tightly in the arms of Fabio...I don't think that's Biblical, but I kept it anyways.
In the midst of going through these books I was especially struck by two "groupings" of books. Both appear to have come from a period dating approximately from the late 50's to the 70's. One cluster of books focused on rising crime in suburbia. And the second cluster? How to save dying churches. Whoever (multiple people I would assume) had amassed these books were both sensitive to and in tune with their communities. They recognized the changes taking place around them, my heart says (hopes) they were ahead of the curve, that they attempted to embrace some changes and to fight off others. But my mind says that they probably were late to the game. It's fun to imagine and to try and piece together a history of a church that apparently once thrived.
However, there was something a little more profound and immediate that I found myself thinking about as I sat covered in sweat (my office is a furnace), dirt, and grime. No one plans for a church to a fail, nor do they plan for a community to deteriorate. I don't need to read the history to know that as the neighborhood transformed into something other than what it began as, the people that moved away and or died in the church just simply weren't replaced. Was it because the element that had moved in and transformed the neighborhood weren't the church going type? Was it because the church became fearful? Did the church lose its message and witness in the midst of the storm? All of the above? None of the above? Whatever it was, they no doubt found themselves in the midst of a nasty storm.
As I considered these things, I found myself really proud and impressed with the little group that has stayed faithful and kept the proverbial light on. These folks, most of them, were there in the heyday and they lived through the deterioration of the community and the church. Still they stayed and still they continue to come back. Seems to me there might be something really special to there to build upon.
As for Finn and Jake? Given that they are from a cartoon called "Adventure Time", I figured it was only fitting that they get set up in the office first (the rest of the crowd will join them tomorrow). This is an Adventure, fraught with the unknown and potential danger, but it is also brimming with a world of hope and potential. Beyond that, Finn and Jake hold a special place in my heart going back a few years.
I used to volunteer in the schools in Lexington to help with CATS testing. When I did this, I inevitably would be put with the kids suffering from learning disabilities or behavioral issues to "scribe" for them. This one particular year I was partnered with a Middle School student who was described as both loving and incredibly difficult. For the first day, I could not get the child to speak. I talked video games, I joked with him, I talked television, and I could get nothing but a smile from him. The next day, I upped my game, which is to say I repeated the same tactics as the day before laced with more desperation. I had the reputation of being able to get through to this group of kids and this kid was kicking my tail. Finally, having exhausted my massive knowledge of all things videogames and cartoons, I remembered this really bizarre cartoon I had watched the night before.
"Adventure Time. What about Adventure Time? Do you watch that?"
I got a giggle and a very suddenly bright, red face. The student looked around to insure that the coast was clear, when he leaned in and giggled, "That show is f'n hilarious." (And yes, he said the whole word lol)
Victory! In what seemed an impossible, lost cause . I like Finn and Jake; and I'm glad they're standing guard in my office tonight.