Legacy. We hear that word from time to time, and it often has to do with a nostalgic reference to someone whose life profoundly impacted the life of someone else. On the grander scale, a legacy is considered to be ways in which one person or group of persons has profoundly impacted the lives of countless others. In this sense, legacies are often passed on from generation to generation.
In my family, one of our more tangible (and very heavy) legacies is an anvil. It has been passed down to the first born male Smith in my family since sometime in the 1880’s. My great-great grandfather, James Henry Smith, acquired the anvil for use in his business (yes, he was a true “smith”), and that anvil has stayed with us ever since. My grandson, Mason, will be the 7th generation to receive this legacy.
Most legacies aren’t quite as tangible (nor are they nearly as heavy) as this one. Most legacies are based on acts of bravery or bold strides made in social justice. Some legacies are character traits such as love and compassion. Some legacies are bad legacies as we sometimes see in peoples’ tendencies toward abuse or violence that are passed down within families. It i true: all legacies do, in fact, have the power to influence our lives for successive generations.
At Wellspring, we are talking about legacy. We are using our end of summer celebration service and covered dish luncheon (of course, Methodists don’t have real celebrations without eating) to celebrate the legacy that is Wellspring itself. We are honoring those who have given of themselves to make Wellspring what it is today, and we are using this as a way to continue clarifying our vision about who God is calling us to be in the future.
You see, legacy in its purest form is not about nostalgia. Legacy at Wellspring is about remembering who we are as we consider once again the values that were essential to the founding of our church. Values, such as hospitality and compassion and service and families in all the ways we have families structured these days, are critical to our mission. Values, such as true openness and acceptance of all people, no matter who they are, what they’ve done, who they love or what they look like, are values that continue to define and shape us as we move into our bold new future.
So legacy for us is our touchstone. Celebrating legacy is when we take time to look back to see what it was that shaped us at the beginning and what continues to shape us in our emerging reality. In my family, I discovered a paradigm that was brought to mind by the anvil. The anvil is a tool in the shop of a smith, and a smith is one who forges or gives shape to metals transforming them into things of beauty and function. As I realized the legacy that was mine, it occurred to me that my legacy is to be someone who helps forge … or give shape … or help bring meaning … to events and circumstances and people around me. And one way I do that is by helping us look carefully at our legacy together.
So what is your legacy? Is it a legacy that leads people to a better place? Is it a legacy that leads people closer to the Christ of their salvation? My prayer is that your legacy will be just that and will then last for generations to come!