Local minister has “Back to the Future” experience
It is the year 2113, 100 years from now. Looking forward from today, we ask ourselves: Will they be able to read a flash drive or a CD Rom? We contemplate the fact that even after 20-ish years, the audio CD is already on its way out. The cutting edge technology of cassette tapes is practically buried in the past and CDs are surely not far behind. We decide not to use any digital technology.
So on what should we store our parish photos for the 10th Anniversary time capsule? How shall we publish letters and lists to those who will follow after us at Holy Ascension Orthodox Church 100 years hence? Well — the “old-fashioned way” — archival photos on cotton paper made with long-lasting ink.
We built our church building super-engineered, to last like the cathedrals in Spain, France and England — with 16-inch solid concrete walls and an 18-inch universal slab foundation. In the 4th century lenten service we serve six weeks before Easter, we ask God, “preserve this holy house until the end of the world.”
Among other holy items, an antique bronze cross, from our first meetings as a church in a storefront. Palms from this year’s Palm Sunday Service. A list of all those who have been baptized and received in our church in the last decade. Some print documents about the original plans for construction of Holy Ascension. An archival parish photo. Letters and school photos from three parish children. Signatures of everyone who attended the blessing of the time-capsule including a new friend from Bulgaria and a visitor from Summerville. And the day’s Moultrie News and Post and Courier.
In my letter for the time capsule, I memorialized some oral history: There is a fragment of the Berlin Wall in the foundation of our church — William Hamilton, our neighbor, put it there as a fitting way to sanctify a stone which previously had divided a world. And I told the future’s parishioners about the handwriting on the foundation which they would find if they ventured under the altar in the crawl space — we wrote there while the concrete was still wet. How would they otherwise know? All this in the time capsule. And yet wonder regarding the contents, and if they will last, and what life will be like then was only part of the process — the part I could anticipate. Unexpected was the contemplation of my own limited sojourn on this earth. I will not be around to open this capsule. Nor will my high-school aged children. I calculated, using 25 years as the average age of having a child, it will be my son’s great-great-grandchildren, when they are 20 years old, who will be opening the capsule. Often times I have wondered about my progeny dealing with the federal debt with which they will be saddled. But honestly, however real, that is still a rather nebulous idea. It is a very specific one to contemplate putting a gift in a tube for a great-great grandchild to find. That it will be the children of the children of the children of today’s children in my parish who will open the capsule. If I myself live to 100, I will have been buried already 40 years. (How wild is it even to use the future-perfect tense — “I will have been buried”…)
Walking through the church last week thinking on these things, everything in the building looked different. This church is not just for me, for us, now, but for them: for children’s children’s children. Of course, I have known this in my mind, but it somehow dropped into my heart with the preparation of a time capsule. I wanted to go open a wall somewhere and hide something — something else that might be uncovered in a future renovation. Instead, I was also moved to prayer.
I thanked God for all the parishioners, by name, who have been a part of Holy Ascension since its founding. I thanked God for the friends and benefactors of this holy house. For our I’On neighbors. We know their names. And I thanked God for those known to Him alone, who will be here to carry on our tradition in a century. And I thanked God for the privilege of the mindfulness of my own death, which is an opportunity to live life fully now.
O Creator and Fashioner of the human race, Giver of spiritual grace and Bestower of eternal salvation: Do Thou Thyself, O Lord, send down Thy Holy Spirit with a blessing from on high upon THIS TIME CAPSULE, that armed with the power of heavenly assistance it may be perfectly preserved and of benefit to those who shall open it and enjoy its contents a century hence. Between now and then, guard and protect us and our children and our children’s children. Grant us all to remain faithful to you.
As you have blessed us, so bless those who shall receive this gift. As you have fruitfully increased our parish, continue this good work in them. As you have preserved us, so preserve them in faithfulness. For you are the giver of every good gift, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, and to Thee we ascribe glory: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Fr John Parker is the rector of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in I’On. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 843-881-5010.