Sayings about the past and the future are all over the map. Some exhort us not to dwell on the past (“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”–John F. Kennedy) while others remind us that there is wisdom to be found there (“For we need not feel the bitterness of the past to discover its meaning for the present and the future”–also John F. Kennedy).
While there are times for looking back and others for looking ahead, the wisest of these sayings, I think, remind us that those who are unafraid of their pasts are best equipped for a bright future. We have been following that wisdom well over these eventful few years. We named our capital campaign in honor of the past 75 years and with a vision for the 75 to come. And so it seems right to me that as our campaign for the future peaks, we are spending an evening in honest, healing contemplation of a hard time in our past: Healing Past Hurts and Moving Forward, on Monday, March 27.
From what those who were here in the 1970s and ’80s relate, the ministry of Bill Jacobsen, known as BJ, was characterized by a flowering of intellectual engagement and a deepening congregational involvement in social justice. It was also marred by some ethical lapses: abuses of power that took the form of inappropriate sexual relationships and a disregard for the congregation’s own policies guiding that most important decision, the calling of a minister. Now, with my and Rev. Cat’s strong support, the Board has sounded the congregation about this period and planned this session. We do this in the faith–built upon experience–that it is the communities that are undaunted by their history, warts and all, that thrive most in the future.
We began our 75th anniversary year with a deep dive into our history: a ten-part series of classes produced by our Adult Religious Education Committee, including one on the ministers who have served here. We knew that starting with curiosity and interest in our past would put us on a solid footing for moving forward. We’re not rushing blindly into the future, but going boldly into it the way one climbs a steep mountain trail: with care and attention, watching where we put our feet and keeping that lofty goal in mind. And oh, how the view gets better for the hard work of climbing.
So on March 27, let’s engage with the past in that spirit of fearless exploration. We’ll own our whole history: the proud moments in order to multiply them, the regretted ones in order to learn from them. As that great man, Jean-Luc Picard, said–or rather, will say, 300 years in our future, “The past is written, but the future is left for us to write, and we have powerful tools: openness, optimism, and the spirit of curiosity.”