As some of you may be aware, our family spent late June enjoying some time away in the Niagara Region and in the Finger Lakes area of New York (Southern Tier). One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Watkins Glen State Park. While little can top the majesty of Niagara Falls, Watkins Glen was a welcome escape from the rampant commercialism of the Fallsview Tourist area. If you have never been to Watkins Glen, here is a quick overview. Within a 2 mile stretch, a large stream descends 400 feet past 200 foot cliffs generating 19 waterfalls along the way! After a lot of rain, this is even more impressive.
While this is dramatically beautiful, one of the other things that is incomprehensable is how much dynamite must have been used to create the bridges, tunnels, and footpaths of the Gorge Trail that we traversed to enjoy this experience. In today's era of conservation, to blast such an area would be considered an abuse of God's good creation. However, like the highways that many of us have grown accustomed to driving, without making these adaptations, many of us would never have the opportunity to treasure these beautiful locations in the first place.
I thought about this relative to how we preserve our rituals, traditions, and habits in congregational life. Are there things about the way that we guard our life together that make the Gospel less accessable to people in our surrounding community, especially those who were not raised in formal church settings or have not darkened the door of a church in along time? Are there changes that we could make to bridge the gap between generations and between learning styles? What barriers might we need to remove, what bridges might we need to build, and what paths might we need to carve to help people more easily assimilate in our faith community? What improvements might be necessary moving forward in the ways that we gather together for worship, education, service, and fellowship? We have these incredible treasures in our hymns and liturgy, in our children and youth, in the wisdom of our seniors, in the free spirit of our young adults, in the love of our families, and in a collective heart for serving others. But the source of al of these things is God revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord and the Holy Spirit that has been poured into our hearts.
Just as this beautiful state park has been maintained and adapted for many generations to come, so must we consider how we adapt our mission center, use current technology,welcome the gifts and talents of newer members, and discover fresh expressions of the Gospel in worship. Who knows? Adaptations along the way might not only open the eyes and ears and hearts of younger generations and newer members to the Gospel but may open us up to the kingdom of God in ways we have not known before. Pray for the leadership of St. Andrew's that, as we prepare for a new program year ahead, we preserve the treasure of the Gospel and our mission together while making these treasures more accessable to others. See you in church!