Any organization depends on the institutional memory and commitment of long-time members. That's especially true for congregations of any faith.
And it's certainly true of my congregation, Second Presbyterian Church of Kansas City, which is moving toward its sesquicentennial, having been founded in July 1865.
So this past Saturday we held a celebration that honored our members who have belonged to the church for at least 50 years. We have 75 such people in our midst, those amazing stalwarts, pillars, leaders who have seen the congregation through good times and bad.
You see two of them in this photo -- Jane Kelley and her kid brother, Russell Sheldon. Jane joined Second Church in 1926 and Russell in 1928. Imagine that.
At a brief worship service before a reception for the people we called "Sages of Second," I was asked to say a prayer.
So here's what I said, hoping to offer a sense of how important people are who form the backbone of any community of faith:
Eternal God in Christ, have a close look here at your faithful children, our Second Sages, whom you love literally to death.
And as you consider them individually and collectively as part of our congregation, we give you thanks for their lives. Indeed, it is hard to imagine what Second Church would be today without these Sages of Second, so we raise up the precious names of these men and women and we think about what it has meant that their lives have been witnesses to the power of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Lord Christ, as we remember the long service these Sages have offered to Second Church, we ask you to help others who now are struggling toward faith to see in these people what a long life of faith looks like. Help those seekers to become disciples of the prince of peace, the good shepherd, the cosmic Christ who took the weight of the sinful world on his beaten shoulders and transformed it into life made new for all of us.
We are grateful, God, for each child these Sages have taught, for each casserole they have made and shared, each prayer they have said on behalf of others in the congregation and on behalf of the wounded world. We give thanks for the rides to church they have given to others, the visits they have made to the sick and the imprisoned, the words of comfort they have spoken to the bereaved, the hugs they have given to the lonely and the invitations they have offered to others to join our congregation.
May their lives continue to be a blessing to the whole congregation, to the wider community and to the church universal, for we pray all of these things in the name of the creator, the crossbearer and the comforter. Amen.
I hope that if you are part of a congregation it is blessed with such sages, too.
By the way, here's a little video about our Sages of Second.
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WHAT SORT OF PERSON IS GOD?
Scott Adams, creator of the "Dilbert" comic strip, asks whether God has a personality. Hmmm. Well, Christians, for instance, talk of the three persons of the Trinity, not the three personalities. See what you think.
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P.S.: I have just yesterday confirmed the dates for my 2014 Ghost Ranch class, "Turning Our Pain Toward Hope Through Writing." It will be the week of Aug. 11 and we'll be meeting in the retreat atmosphere of Casa del Sol on the grounds of the ranch in northern New Mexico. More information is here, and as soon as an online catalog is available for registration, I'll post a note on the blog.