The following column appeared in the Kinston Free Press one week after Queen Street United Methodist Church celebrated 100 years of ministry at the corner of Queen Street and Peyton Avenue in what is now downtown Kinston, North Carolina. I love being in ministry with saints and sinners of Queen Street and look forward to the challenges of another 100 years of ministry in Kinston.
This past Sunday, Queen Street United Methodist Church marked 100 years since our foremothers and forefathers walked from the corner of Caswell and Independence to the corner of Queen and Peyton to launch a new ministry.
While the move was only two blocks west and four blocks north, it represented a move in keeping with Kinston’s growth. I have been contemplating that move and remembering two heroes of scripture who made a much longer journey — Abraham and Sarah.
Abraham was called by God to leave the comfort of kin and homeland at the age of 90 and invited to “Go West” until God told him to stop. When he “arrived” at God’s spot some years later, God further promised Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars.
We have to remember that Abraham and Sarah were an ancient (Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 89) and childless couple when this promise was made. Abraham must have felt like a fool. It’s one thing to travel to literally “God only knows where”; it’s quite another to start a family at the age of 100!
The writer of Hebrews sensed that Abraham understood what it was to be a part of the larger human quest. The writer says that as Abraham traveled west he “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
As several institutions in our town turn 100 this year, what would “looking forward to the city” look like in our time? As Kinston rebounds from watching one industry after another leave town and even get dealt the blow of losing our Kinston Indians, are we “looking forward to the city” or just reminiscing? Are we dreaming God-sized dreams of what could be or languishing in stories of what used to be?
As I get older, I find myself leaning into the future with my kids.
I choose indoor plumbing over outhouses, air-conditioning over oscillating fans, iTunes over 45s, the Internet over chain-letters, and pesky mobile phones over shared party lines.
I choose a city that looks to what can be instead of what used to be.
I choose a city where God is the builder and architect and where the citizens seek the prosperity and peace of the city as a whole.
That kind of place will prosper, and my hunch is that her descendants will be like the stars.