I flew to my childhood home in the Midwest over the holidays to spend the long weekend with a close friend from college. We’ve kept in touch over the years, but it’s been nearly ten since I last visited. He and I both are, of course, now ten years older, as are the rest of the family and friends I have seen on this trip. So perhaps it’s this realization that’s put me in a reflective mood and that has me thinking about change.
My gracious host for the weekend moonlights as the music director of Franklin Circle Christian Church, located in an historical area of downtown Cleveland. Jim never passes up an opportunity to get me singing again (he was, after all, my accompanist and fellow opera singer in my conservatory years). So on a humid Sunday morning, I found myself standing at the lectern of the lovely old church, singing Gounod’s “O Divine Redeemer” to the sounds of a gorgeous and newly-rebuilt pipe organ. Looking out at the congregation, I saw faces I recognized from years before, when I used to sing there regularly. Older, but still full of life. And amongst those aging faces, new faces. The faces of openness and acceptance.
The church, it seems, saw its numbers flagging over the years. And where other churches might have given up and closed their doors, this church reached out to the growing gay, African American and Latino communities of the surrounding area. To be clear, the church has always been “open” in the sense that it never turned people away because of sexual preference or ethnic background. But under its current leadership, it has gone a step further and reached out to those communities. The end result is a vibrant, loving community of people who worship together and work to make the community a better place for all those who live there.
So as I sit here on July 4th in my old home town, I am struck by how change can be a renewing and positive force in our lives. Change may happen in small ways (as in this relatively small church) or in larger ways (as in New York’s new gay marriage law), but it is not necessarily a thing to be feared.
Happy Fourth of July to all! -Shira