HONORING THE PAST, VISIONING THE FUTURE
presentation by Richard Hughes
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As a community of faith, few things are more important than our collective
story. Our story shapes our identity and informs our mission. It reminds us
where we have come from and who we are called to be. Because of this, we
rightfully give attention to the need to “honor our past”. Honoring our past
can remind us of the dreams of a better world that motivated those who have gone
before us and of the values that we share in common with one another. Honoring
our past can instill within us a sense of belonging and community that binds us
together in ways that are intimate and precious.
- In the beginning, God created. We sense with awe the vastness of creation
and the beauty that our Creator has provided as God has moved, and continues
to move, in all of creation.
- As a part of creation, we are able to view ourselves through our secular
and religious histories. We see the Community of Christ in the context of
that great story of humankind.
- We view our Scriptures through understanding the historical contexts of
knowing where, when, and under what circumstances they were written. We then
understand better the issues faced by our forebears. By understanding the
contextual meaning of the Scriptures we may see current situations that are
similar to those faced by the early church mothers and fathers. This
understanding can also help us avoid the pitfall of interpreting the
Scriptures in ways the authors might never have intended.
- The Gospel of Love as taught by Christ, the Apostle Paul, and others is a
major component of our current paths as High Priests in the Church. We
interpret events with an understanding of Grace.
- The Restoration movement was created in the “ferment” of nineteenth
century America. The early restoration movement incorporated, or flirted
with, many of the experimental notions current in America during that
period. Observing the interaction of Joseph Jr. and the early Church to
their l9th century environment may help us understand how religious and
secular movements effect our society and our Church today.
- We recognize and deeply appreciate the sacrificial living of others in the
historic Christian faith, the early Restoration movement, and of those
living today. We have been nurtured, taught, loved, cajoled, corrected, and
inspired by the Saints of the present and near past. They are a part of who
we are as individuals and as a church.
- We recognize, also, that we would not be in this conference today were it
not for many noble persons who are a major part of our own individual
- Honoring our past however, carries with it a challenge.
Namely, our story is one that is rooted deeply within a prophetic
tradition. Consequently, we are a people who are forever standing on the
threshold of God’s creative action that calls us to be explorers in new
arenas of faith and ministry. As such, we are deeply appreciative of our
heritage, but we do not camp there. We affirm and stand on the
treasures of our story, but we do so in order to catch a better glimpse of
how God is calling us into the days ahead.
It is at this intersection of the past and future that High Priests
are asked to stand. We stand here not only for ourselves, but as ministers
committed to helping our community of faith engage in the path of discipleship
that is set before the church. Many in our congregations struggle with the
rapidity of change today. We sometimes struggle with how we can be true to the
past and still be fully integrated into the future which is opening before us.
Do we need to have modern music in our services? Do we really need to change our
styles of worship in order to reach out to others? What happens when one
generation’s values differ markedly with another generation’s values? As
high priests we are called to stand at the intersections of the past, present,
and future; to stand at the intersections of differing cultures; to stand at the
intersections of differences between age groups; to stand at the intersections
of the myriad of challenges that the church faces today. As high priests, we are
challenged to honor our past as we envision and move into the future.
In his 2000 Conference address, President McMurray invited the church to walk
the path of the disciple. High Priests are asked to be ministers who not only
are pilgrims on that path themselves, but who are also willing to be companions
along the way for others who have heard the call and wish to respond.
How we do this is a central question now before the Quorum of High
Priests. It is the question which the new Temple School course High Priests:
Ministers of Vision attempts to address. It is the question that this area
conference is being asked to consider. We trust that your exploration of this
matter will be graced by God’s Spirit as you pray, worship and discuss
together. With our wonderful past in mind, let us move into the future together.