In late July the largest city in my state declared bankruptcy. In 1950, Detroit, Michigan, was the fifth largest city in the nation, roughly the same size as Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Booming automobile companies made middle-class citizens of people who worked in them.
Years later I still feel the shame. I was visiting a young man in a facility for people with severe brain injuries. He was agitated and eager to walk, so I joined him as he went from room to room and looked in each room as if he were searching for someone. Eventually we came to a big room that was not in use. At the far end a couple of janitors were at work buffing the floor.
On a wall in Stockholm’s cathedral hangs a huge 17th-century painting of the Last Judgment that depicts the falling bodies of the damned. On a recent visit to that church I gave the painting little more than a glance. A longer look might have found something of beauty or interest, but my reaction just then was to wish that it were not there.
For many congregations, September 8 is Rally Sunday. Sunday school begins again. Worship times are restored. The people attending worship have a freshness and excitement about them. Toddlers have grown a size or two, seventh graders are eighth graders, parents are rested from vacations, and some adults have married or added a child their families. What is God’s will for this rejuvenated lot?
Larry was my spiritual director for seven years, but when I moved from Durham, North Carolina, to Pittsburgh, I could no longer make the monthly drive. On my last visit, instead of lighting a candle and inviting me to sit with him in a time of silence, he suggested we take a walk.