This week has been a time of talking about the upcoming Homecoming celebration at Broadway (October 14 and 15). You can read about it at a special blog that has been set up by Troy Smythe. Check it out!
But I want to tell you a bit of how it looks from my perspective. I've been blessed to be one of the pastors here since 2003. But it's my second stint here as I was also one of the pastors from 1986-1991. So I guess you could say that I've already had my homecoming at Broadway!
There's a lot that changed in the 11 1/2 years I was gone from Broadway. But a lot that has remained constant as well. As I look across the long and rich history of this congregation I think of the amazing changes they have borne witness to across the years. Through the first World World, through the Great Depression, through the II World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Watergate, assassinations and resignations the world has changed a lot. The late 1940's and early 1950's were a real hey day for churches in the United States. And it wasn't any different at Broadway. People poured into the limestone cathedral located on Fall Creek on the north side of the College bridge. There are photographs of people parked up and down Fall Creek Parkway. The place was packed. What a grand time.
Through the fifties and sixties though the numbers at Broadway went down the congregation that stayed showed incredible faith and steadfastness. And yet today the life around our place seems to be bursting out of the walls. I can't imagine what it was like to be around here 50 or 75 years ago, but I can hardly believe that it could possibly be a more beautiful, diverse, healthy, joyous, hopeful place than it is today.
This summer our 17 year old son Conor spent 7 weeks away from our family, in Spain (part of a language immersion program through IU). I've found myself meditating some on homecoming since his return. A couple days after he returned the two of us were at dinner together and I looked across the table and the thing that overwhelmed me was that I could see how happy he was. I loved that. He was happy because of the terrific experience he had over in Spain, he was happy to be home, just happy in life. And I thought to myself -- I hope that this will be the experience of people in coming home to Broadway this October. And I hope that if that indeed happens I'll be able to look across the table at the folks who have returned home and see in the faces the shining happiness that I could see in Conor's face. Part of that is on me, to recognize that in the faces of those around me.
The other thing that happened, that took me by surprise, was that Conor and Jordan, all of a sudden, miraculously it seemed to me, were getting along great. They are 4 1/2 years different and have gotten along quite like one might expect a couple of brothers to get along. But now it all seemed different. And like the happiness in Conor's face, I cannot explain it -- but I certainly hope to see that at Broadway's homecoming as well.
My bet is that old frustrations and arguments that have been had across the years will be forgotten as people see one another and recall the stories of good times (and hard times) with laughter and graciousness. Oh, I think there will be sadness as well, as people look around the room and miss those that are no longer with us, the saints of the faith, of our life together. But I think even that sadness will find comfort and (dare I say it) joy in the communion of the saints who have gathered and in the powerful memories and remembrance of times gone by.
And at the same time Conor's homecoming also reminded me that we do not live in the days before he left this summer. But, in fact, these are new days. I miss some of the old days -- I miss the days when Jordan at 1 year old would run to me as I presided at communion at Broadway Christian Parish and I would pick him up and hold him in my arms as I prayed the prayer of Great Thanksgiving. I miss the days of walking down the street in South Bend with Conor at 4 years old, as the murderous dog two doors down would bark so fiercely at us that I was convinced that he was going to bite a hole through his thick chain link fence and be feasting on us in seconds, but Conor would lift his voice in a sing-song calling "Hello, friend dog." But truly, though I miss those times, they will live in my memory forever. I will not ever hear again the same rhythmic tones of Conor's pre-pubescent voice with his freedom from fear or feel Jordan's arms around me at the altar -- but these new days are so good as well (and I hope I will look back on them and miss them as well, in the future).
The days ahead (both for our family and for this church) look full of promise. And it is fun to both live in these days, remember the past, and live in joyful anticipation of the future that lies ahead (even though we know that some of that future will have its share of burdens and pain and grief).
My gosh, I look forward to this. I look forward to the laughter and tears, the memories and challenges into the future. Happy Homecoming!