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Stock Snippets: History and Church Revitalization

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"488","attributes":{"alt":"Easton (CT) Congregational Church","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 203px; float: left; margin: 0px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"Easton (CT) Congregational Church","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]This fall the Easton Congregational Church in Connecticut will celebrate its 250th anniversary. As is true of many of our older churches the event is bittersweet: making it to the a quarter-millennium mark is an amazing achievement, but it also means facing some hard questions about the future. Easton has declined in membership, especially in recent years, and its people are aging. The congregation is not certain what the near future may bring.

The church is blessed with some loyal members, one of whom we had the pleasure of meeting in the library last month. Jon Stock is a retired law librarian with a great love for history and historical documents. There is no doubt that under his supervision the Easton records are well cared for — and even better, they are being used in creative ways to instill love and loyalty to the church and its long history.

Jon provides a "snippet" every Sunday, a short reflection based on an incident or short bit of text from the Easton records. He has also organized the snippets into monthly installments, under a theme (the Revolutionary War, problems with money, and so forth). By way of example, you can you can read Jon's four installments for July in a handy PDF document.

It strikes me that Jon's approach might be useful for others. It's tempting to want to drop the entire cart of history on the congregation at once, or to celebrate an anniversary in one big bash. But observing the anniversary year with weekly snippets keeps the church's history in the front of everyone's awareness, and it gives people a sense of the story as a whole.

Jon's approach also emphasizes the ongoing value of knowing your history. The events of the past described in his snippets are not just over and done, but are still reverberating in the life of the Easton church. This is the case in every local congregation, whether or not people recognize what is going on. Sometimes we remember the past as our high achievements, and sometimes we remember more difficult times, like old church battles over money and politics. But is within the warp and woof of these daily events, the long faithfulness of local congregations — not sudden divine visitations or once-in-a-lifetime miracles — that history is made.

Many congratulations to Jon and the Easton Congregational Church for reaching their 250th.

If you're not a member at Easton, but would like to receive Jon's upcoming historial tidbits, you can do so by contacting him directly.


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