Matt Pearl

There’s a little country church house just a mile or two up north on Empire Prairie, Andrew County, Missouri. Star Chapel United Methodist Church had its auction on Saturday, a conclusion to the recent closure of the church.

Times change, and we are seeing many institutions – churches, business, homesteads, etc. – transitioning from their former community roles into their modern ones. To see Star Chapel close its doors is not pleasant for any of us, but it is, as they say, a sign of the times.

I myself did not choose to attend the auction. My wife went for a while in the morning, but I didn’t really have the heart to go. My family did not attend the church, but when you live in a country ‘neighborhood’ like Empire Prairie, it’s certainly. A comfort to have churches around you.

Churches – and the folks who go to them – make pretty good neighbors in my experience. Now don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that the only good, moral folks around are the ones who attend church. But in my experience, churches are hubs for positive, morally grounded community activity. It’s a shame to see a good one closing its doors.

For the most part, I think we need to avoid dwelling upon the past. It typically yields us very little, except for sentiment and nostalgia. Those things are fine, but you can’t take the pieces of yesterday’s memories and build tomorrow with them.

When folks urge us to Make America Great Again, I understand the varying viewpoints they bring to the discussion. But they’re too often looking backward to walk forward – there are parts of the American experience we miss, but obsessing over what was at the expense of what needs to be can be a mistake.

It’s not wrong to want pieces of the past to exist in the present with us, but the folks at Star Chapel – the still-dedicated and faithful members – got me to thinking about all of this. What if they drew that same line? We’re either going to the church that we grew up with, or we don’t go anywhere!

Well, it would certainly be their right to refrain from attending if they so choose. But to draw the world such an ultimatum – either we do things the way I remember them, or else I quit! – would hardly be beneficial, would it?

But there’s a line we walk. Do we compromise our ethics or morals to conform to a future those ideals seem to be leaving us behind? Well, no, you and I have the right to believe in our own principles. On that same subject, though, does our wanting things to be the same as they were in the past allow us to relive our youth? No.

So, what do we do? Do we surrender all the good things from yesterday just so today and tomorrow don’t leave us behind? No. But looking backward while moving your feet forward seems like an efficient way to stumble and fall from my perspective.

No, the best we can do is preserve the present: if something is important to us now, then we are justified in doing our best to maintain its viability for later. Still, there will be moments when, due to factors our of our control, something has to change, and a piece of the past cannot exist any longer in our present or in our future. It’s the way of the world.

I am sure it has been difficult for the members of that little country church up the prairie to endure its closing, and I am sure tears were shed before, during and after the auction. One of those moments when life will not allow us to take a portion of our past to the future with us came along, and it’s difficult to abide.

But there are great times awaiting us tomorrow. We just have to remember that it’s our responsibility to continue creating these good old days, rather than wallowing in the fact that we cannot live yesterday over again.

Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.

 

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