Friday, September 30, 2005

Getting at the roots...

Over the last few months I have come to a realization. Part of the problem around here is that people are angry about more than a power plant closing (although trust me they are angry and afraid about that). This town blossomed in the post-war decades because there were 2 iron mines here. And many of the families in town came during that period, a time of milk and honey is almost how it is described. A time when money flowed freely and the Mines were willing to help fund all sorts of community projects, and the population topped out at about 8000.

But then things changed. The mines were closed 25 years ago--they became unprofitable. And people here are still mourning. To some we are still a mining town with a mine that is temporarily closed -- the mine is never coming back, even if the ore was profitable the pit is once again a lake, they would never get permission to drain it again. As it happens, the power plant construction was one of the things that gave the town a new lease on life at the time of the mines closing. And now that is going. Grief on top of grief. Anger on top of grief. Despair in a town which has called itself "dying" for so long.

The challenge now is how to make visible the obvious. Are people willing to name the elephant? Are people willing to accept that "not dying" may not mean a return to the 60's and 70's (mind you I doubt that those decades were as wonderful as memory makes them).

In many ways this is the story of the churches too. AT one point (ca.1955) we had the highest birthrate (per capita) in the country. SO the Sunday School was bursting, there were multiple children's/youth choirs. Now we have a 10 kids on a really good Sunday (when no hockey games etc). Once there were lots of young people to share the work--now they are the same people but are no longer quite so young.

Linking the town and the church may well be the way to help both thrive, maybe not grow in numbers or wealth but to thrive where and who they are now. May God help us to find a way to do so.


  1. This really resonates with me, Gord. We had a session with Rob Dalgliesh of General Council, whose job it is (partly) to help congregations in transition look at themselves and make the best transition possible.

    One of his questions was, "What pain is there for you? What have you lost that you once had?"

    We are lucky. Our little place has a short history and relatively few traditions, but the really grieving, in-denial, in-pain places I'd say are those with a century or so of life, an old beautiful barn of a building, and clear memories of things like bursting Sunday School populations.

    You are dead on: the future will not be the past, nor will it necessarily be a death. But it will be something we cannot now imagine. Or possibly something we refuse to imagine until it actually happens to us.

  2. Great post. Welcome to the blog ring.