For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
I was unable to blog on Friday because I was in St. Paul, Minnesota, attending a retreat for volunteers to the ELCA’s Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE), which will be held in the Twin Cities in July of 2022. I will have more to say on that weekend in a future post.
But earlier last week, I went back in time – in a sense.
Last Monday I visited with a small group of former students at West Junior High School and Buchtel High School, where I taught from 1966 to 1972.
And then on Wednesday, I attended a gathering for retirees and others who had at one time worked at WEWS-TV in Cleveland, one of the many stops along my broadcasting career.
In both instances, our conversations fondly recalled pleasant times and not so pleasant ones. We remembered those who are no longer with us physically, but still live in a deep-seated part of our memory.
It is always fascinating to look backward to see where you’ve been, how one remembers people, and more intriguingly – how one is remembered by others.
In the case of the students, some of which I had in class, I was not much older than they were. However, back then, when I was 22 and they were in their early teens, to them, I was an authority figure – Mr. Allende. Now, we address each other by first names. Since this was not the first time we had gotten together, it didn’t seem as awkward as it did during our previous visit.
We met at a restaurant in downtown Akron. We enjoyed a few laughs about how they perceived me in those days. They brought each other up to date on their families and their employment situations.
Zachary, who organized the get-together, now lives in France and wishes he had paid more attention in my French class. But as I said to him, there’s no better way to learn a language than to live in the country where it is spoken. He joked that his son, a native French speaker, laughs at his father’s American accent.
We reminisced and laughed late into the evening. Then it was time to part. Looking at them today, now at or near retirement age, it is gratifying to know that in one small way or another, I had a role in their development.
The broadcast group reunion was much different. We are all older. Some of us worked more closely together. A few of us have kept in touch through social media throughout the years. The aches and pains of aging are more evident. I hadn’t been to one of these events in eight years, and a few of the people I had seen when I previously attended, have now gone on to their greater reward.
Memory is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us. But it can also create complications.
When I was in the office of Bishop, I was invited to a lot of church anniversary celebrations. They were delightful occasions that recalled the accomplishments of a community of people with a history, with experiences of joy and pain, but always working together to become who they were.
Yet, as much as I enjoyed these nostalgic reunions, I would caution the congregation that it was important not to become a prisoner of our past. Unfortunately, too many congregations were just that.
Remembering a congregation’s history is helpful, but it is not enough to merely look back. An anniversary is a time to look forward and make renewed commitments for the new circumstances of the future. That’s one fundamental lesson the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us.
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, reminds us of the importance of maintaining our focus on the future. Paul writes, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” [Phil. 3:13-14]
Like Paul, I would hope that as we move through life, we feel a sense of transformation. We cannot remain the same or waste time dwelling on the past. Our habits, our attitudes, our mannerisms are ever changing, just as the circumstances surrounding our life will change.
They always do.