CNY Inspirations: the six-letter word

This feature is coordinated by The Post-Standard/Syracuse.com and CNY’s InterFaith Works. Follow this theme and this author posted on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Change: Some people (and communities of worshipers) treat the six-letter word as a four-letter word. Don’t say it in polite conversation. Gentiles avoid this word. One thing I’ve learned in thirty-five years of ministry: Change is inevitable. Change will happen. We can fight it. We can oppose it. Change will happen anyway. It’s a fact of life, like how my hair turned gray. I needed to wear bifocals after I turned 40. Change will happen.

I think back to junior high school language classes in the 1960s in Watertown, sixty miles north of Syracuse. The school offered three choices: French, Latin and Spanish. Which should I choose? I had no intention of being a doctor (or a pastor). Exclude Latin. The border between the United States and Mexico is far from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Who would need Spanish here? Watertown is thirty miles from Canada, and French-speaking Quebecers occasionally shopped at local stores. It was useful language. My teenage brain saw no reason why a school in upstate New York offered Spanish.

Twenty years later, I served a United Methodist Church in Oswego County. We rented space in the church to a Head Start program for migrant workers. What language would have helped me understand the families whose children came to my church five days a week? Not the French that I learned in public school and studied at university. Not Latin or Greek which I also studied. You guessed right if you said the language I thought would never serve people north of Oneida Lake. Change has happened in the world around me. God smiled with understanding – and compassion – at my folly and my inability to see how the world was going to change…until change happened.

Reverend Allan Ferguson is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Cicero, NY; and Dean of the Central Crossroads Conference of the Upstate New York Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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