A Gary Larson cartoon once had a picture of a gigantic eye framed by the rear view mirror of a car. The caption read “Objects in mirror are larger than they appear.” A friend had of mine had this message printed and taped to the bathroom mirrors at his church: “Objects in mirror are smaller than they appear.” As we all know from crime and courtroom dramas on TV and movies, what one sees is open to interpretation.
The same is true of memory.
Several accounts of the first time a long tenured and beloved pastor first preached at a particular church often read something like this: “On August 17th at 7:00 PM, the entire town of Mayfield assembled at First Methodist church to hear the Rev. Dr. Boothby preach.” Did the ENTIRE town show up? Doubtful. Did all of the enrolled members of First United Methodist attend? Unlikely. Rather than numbers, what this sentence is really saying is that the excitement surrounding the new pastor’s arrival MADE IT SEEM that the entire town showed up. The church SEEMED full because of the anticipation those who attended felt when they heard their pastor preach for the first time.
Memories are not a clear snapshot of the past that are recognizable to everyone. How many times, when you or a family member recounts a family story, does the phrase “I never knew that happened” or “That’s not the way I remember it.” Get said? It does not mean that the person who wrote about the new pastor’s arrival was deliberately lying so that the image of First Methodist could be puffed up. It does not mean that the person telling the family story is exaggerating to make himself look good or important. More than the facts, what is being told is the emotion of the person who is telling the story.
In the next few weeks or so, I am going to ask the people of St. Michael’s to embark on a journey of memory from its founding to the present. In true Father Ed fashion, you will be asked to write on a wall (don’t worry there will be bleed proof paper!!) which, at the end of the exercise, will represent the timeline of St. Michael’s, the Metro Detroit area, the nation and the national church. We will write down those events as seen through the subjective and sometimes clouded lens of human memory. Don’t get me wrong, facts in their proper order are important. But recording how people felt during that time is also important. My father-in-law is a genealogist, and he tracks down birth and death dates of relatives far and near. On head stones one can see something like the following: “Edna Mae (Walker) Stephens 1890—1977”. More than the facts of the person’s birth and death is “what happened during the dash?” The time BETWEEN birth and death tells the actual story of a person’s life. That’s what I’m inviting us to do.
Now, its not like there isn’t a history of St. Michael’s. (I have read the draft copy and source material in my office), that there aren’t pictures of past rectors in the hallway. I’m interested in the DASH that is St. Michael’s for your benefit. As the old saying goes, “You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.” I hope all of you will participate in the timeline project so that the next rector can know not just the facts, but the feelings, hopes and dreams of the people who are St. Michael’s.