ronniemcbrayer300 cKENTUCKY (12/29/13) — Last year the Old South Congregational Church in Boston began to unravel itself from a quandary. They had been the longtime owners of an exceptional church hymnal, one of the first books produced in North America, printed in 1640. After years of deliberation, study groups, and business meetings, the church finally voted to sell the hymnal.

Because of the age and historical importance attached to this hymnal, selling it was much more than jettisoning a tiny sliver of American nostalgia. The hymnal has incredible value for collectors, and those collectors were salivating to sink their teeth into this ancient book. Thus, when Sotheby’s auctioned the hymnal last month, it brought a hammer price of $14.2 million, a record for a single printed book.

The sale price, with that long string of zeroes, did not free the church from controversy. On one side were the church historians and those members of the congregation who felt they had been called to preserve the church’s history and legacy. On the other side were Pastor Nancy Taylor, the majority of the leadership, and those who felt that faithful stewardship demanded that the resources of the church not be preserved but repurposed to continue mission and ministry.

One side said it was about symbolism, while the other side said it was about service. One side said it was about the past, while the other side pointed to the future. One side said it was about greed on the behalf of the church’s leadership, and the church leadership said the dissenters were moored to traditionalism.

I watched this story unfold for over a year, and was sympathetic to both sides until I heard the church historian say that the church had two of these exceptional books and if this one was sold, You would never be able to hold one in each hand ever again. Of course, he had to admit that holding them was not really practical they are much too fragile for that.

Then he further revealed that the hymnals weren’t even in the church’s possession! They were stored in the rare books department of the Boston Public Library. Most church members and certainly 99% of the community have never even laid eyes on these items. Are they ancient? Yes. Significant? Absolutely. Do they remain instruments of worship and service? No, they haven’t served that purpose for a long time, and they will never do so again.

That these hymnals are a part of the past, not the future, appeared to be the final motivation in the sale. One thoughtful woman in the church said, I have two young sons, and looking forward I want my sons to learn that it’s not about objects. We can take those objects from the past and turn them into fuel for tomorrow.

What a fantastic perspective, and what an applicable lesson for us all. As one year ends and another begins, a profound choice is put before every person: Will we hold on to the past preserving, protecting, and perpetuating it even when doing so becomes much more work than it is worth? Or will we use the past, its gore and its glory, as fuel for the future? Will we take all we have learned, all we have been blessed with, and yes, even all that has hurt us, as the means to continue moving forward?

I am certain that a church older than the Constitution, old enough to have baptized the infant Benjamin Franklin, and solid enough to withstand everything three centuries has thrown at it, will indeed weather this current situation. I just hope that the resources from the past will get put to today’s use, and not be locked away in a vault or collect interest in some obscene-sized endowment.

I hope the same for all of us. Let’s not make life a museum built to what used to be, but a mission to bring about what can be, for life is not so much about preserving the past as it is living with power and purpose today.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is The Gospel According to Waffle House. You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

Disclaimer: The content supplied by columnists and letters to the Editor on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such content, statement, or opinions therein. SurfKY News does not necessarily adhere to or endorse content provided by outside non-staff sources.

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner

LIKE SurfKY on Facebook - Click here to LIKE us now.

© Copyright 2015 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story on social media.

Posted on 2/2/14
3/13 - 16
3/13 - 16

Most Read This Week

May 22, 2015 6491

Madisonville Man Charged with First-Degree Rape

by SurfKY News
May 19, 2015 5830

Owensboro Health Proposes Building $15M Health…

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
May 23, 2015 5339

Missing 5-Year-Old Boy Found

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
May 18, 2015 4244

Madisonville Man Wanted for Attempted Murder in…

by SurfKY News
May 19, 2015 3830

Two Charged with Marijuana Possession after…

by SurfKY News

Most Read This Month

May 15, 2015 10466

New Madisonville Business In Full Operation Soon

by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
May 15, 2015 7402

Investigation of Local Barber Shop Leads to Drug…

by SurfKY News

Stories Trending Now

May 23, 2015 5339

Missing 5-Year-Old Boy Found

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
May 22, 2015 1191

MPD Seeks Three in Residential Robbery

by SurfKY News
May 23, 2015 1128

Elks BBQ Fundraiser Quick Sell Out

by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
May 23, 2015 791

Health Department Food Scores Released

by SurfKY News
May 23, 2015 639

Scientists Meet in Louisville to Share Research…

by Betty Coffman
May 23, 2015 598

Happenings, Meetings Listed for Following Week

by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
May 23, 2015 566

'Cooking for the Cure' Fundraiser Brings Out…

by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
May 24, 2015 546

MCC's Felicia Johnson Receives State KCTCS Award

by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
May 23, 2015 507

Sunday Alcohol Sales Discussion Tabled to Next…

by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
May 23, 2015 495

Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet…

by Ricki C. Gardenhire