On December 2, 1962, a group of 45 worshipers and their pastor, the Rev. Bill Barrett, met in a borrowed church sanctuary on Greenway Road and were chartered as Emmanuel Presbyterian Church. Things were different 55 years ago. Some of us remember those days.
In 1962 the cold war was freezing over and the space race was heating up. John Kennedy was in the third year of his presidency. The Soviet Union sent arms to Cuba precipitating the Cuban Missile Crisis and bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. The war in Viet Nam escalated and a chemical called Agent Orange was used for the first time.
In 1962 John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth—three times in four hours. The term “personal computer” made its first appearance in the media.
In 1962 “West Side Story” won the Academy Award, and an unknown English rock and roll band called The Beatles released a single entitled “Love Me Do.” A new character called Spider Man made his first appearance in the comic books.
In 1962 the average home cost $12,000, the average car cost $3,100, the average income was just under $6,000, and a year’s tuition at Harvard would run you $1,520. Eggs were 32 cents a dozen and gas was 28 cents a gallon. The first Walmart opened in Arkansas.
In 1962 riots broke out at the University of Mississippi following the attempt of James Meredith to enroll as a student there. Pope John XXIII excommunicated Fidel Castro and presided over Vatican II. The US Supreme Court ruled prayer in public schools unconstitutional.
Some things have changed since 1962.
John Kennedy’s life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet. Fidel Castro died just one year ago. Personal computers are ubiquitous and most of us can’t remember life without them. In 2012 a black woman was elected student body president at Ole Miss. The Beatles are still famous, but the day is coming when people will ask, “Ringo who?” Walmart is still a giant of the retail world, but one day even Walmart will be consigned to the history books.
Our 55th birthday is a time for looking back to our beginnings as a congregation and thanking God for his faithfulness to us over this past half century plus. Our spiritual forebears chose the name Emmanuel, meaning God with us, and surely God has been with us, through the valleys and on the mountaintops. But perhaps even more significantly this is a time for looking forward. Who knows what changes the coming years will bring? It staggers the imagination.
But whatever the future holds, there is one thing we can count on. God’s faithfulness never ends. Governments and regimes may pass away. Wars will begin and cease. The economy will fluctuate. We will encounter change at every corner. But we can look up and lift up our heads. We serve Jesus Christ. This is his church. He is the Lord of heaven and earth, Lord of the church and our Lord. As surely as he came to us as a lowly child, he will come to us as our victorious Lord. So stand up and raise your heads. Our redemption is drawing near. Emmanuel is with us always, unto the end of the age.
Thanks be to God!