I recently visited the Old First Congregational Church in Bennington, VT. My wife’s relatives
helped start this church during the Great Awakening under Jonathan Edwards. It was surreal. I got tears in my eyes when we started the worship and sang hymns, some of which those early families no doubt sang so long ago. We even sat in a box pew with her family name etched in the memorial label on the side.
Two hundred years of history...a legacy of value.
Still, as much as this congregation has maintained certain traditions and a rich history, there were things they had released as well. At one point, the pastor compared Christian faith to "all the other great world religions." Edwards, who held tightly to John 14:6 would have said that Jesus is the only way, not just one way to connect with God. At another point, he referred to God as, "The Great Parent," in lieu of mentioning him as "Father." Finally, during his sermon, he took apart the passage Colossians 3, suggesting that Paul wasn't condemning all the negative behaviors here, just making sure that we had our priorities straight such that God is first. I'm pretty sure Paul would have stood firm against fornication, lust, rage, etc., but this was somewhat glossed-over in lieu of a "higher" point.
Like so many, the church has taken a turn toward the smorgasbord approach to God's Word and to Christian faith in general. If I were able to go back in time to speak to those responsible for the early shift, like the turn the Battenkill River takes just South of Arlington, I would beg them to maintain ALL of what their forefather's taught. So much of it has been preserved--but the whole counsel of scripture should and could be maintained as well. And...it works. God's way really works!
As believers in the 21st Century, we too have a responsibility to maintain the legacy of faith for our children and grandchildren. We mustn't let culture determine our exegesis of scripture such that we start understanding and teaching it through the lens of what our world finds acceptable. I believe that the Bible is timeless. It's truths can and should be taught for the benefit of all those who will hear.
I plan to spend whatever time God gives me here to continue this tradition...will you join me?
To that end,