As we’ve talked about over the past year, we’re celebrating our 275th year as an established church/congregation here in Marlborough, and we’re just getting started! Over the past year, I’ve looked at old documents, pored over ledgers and plans for refurbishment, refitting, and renovation. Now with the History Committee’s help, the process of bringing all that history to life and easy to access will soon accelerate. But the essence of what I’ve tried to learn with my own research is simply this: what is it about this place that makes it so very special for so many of us?
Furthermore, why do we continue to grow when other churches (even some not so far away) are dwindling even to their last members? In every interview I’ve given so far, and in every conversation where I’ve asked that question, the answer is always the same: it’s the people.
I tend to agree with that. Consider that in 275 years, this church has withstood the marches of time and although our meeting house is not the 1747 meeting house (rebuilt in 1842), it still stands as a very real conduit for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit dances freely at Marlborough Congregational in so many ways, and the people here are both inspired and inspiring. New friends are met with enthusiasm and grace; their children are welcomed and invited into our Sunday School programs and all the other facets of our spiritual growth. Because the Spirit has inspired so many to give of their time, talents, support, and effort, we are still here! Because the Spirit inspires kindness and warmth, we continue to grow! So, when future church historians look into our successes, they will likely come to the same conclusions: yep, it’s the people!
But future historians will still perform diligent research. They’ll recognize with excitement that some of Marlborough Congregational’s documents predate the Declaration of Independence by 29 years. They’ll find that the steeple fell off the church during the hurricane of 1938, and that donations to restore and repair it poured in from all over Marlborough, owing to its importance not only to those who attended the church, but to the town and its people. They’ll look at old photos and see the trees and shrubs which used to make up our plot of land; a single path leading to our steps. They might learn that there was a small house that once stood in the relative area of the Big Purple Bus’s parking spot, and that the parsonage was once in a different place.
And while we’re doing our own reflecting on where we’ve been in our 275 years, I think it’s also equally important to celebrate who we are, where we’re going, and to celebrate each other. After all, history isn’t simply a study of the past, it’s about learning from ourselves in the here and now, too. So, 275 years from now at Marlborough Congregational, their history filled with our stories and the stories of our children’s children’s future generations. Imagine the celebrations they’ll have!
For the historian 275 years from now: you’ll find that while you read through 550 years of history, you’ll come to the same conclusion we have: it’s the enduring messages and love of Jesus, it’s the exuberant dancing and singing of the Spirit, and do you know what? It’s the people.
To The Future!