Connecting our Founding to our Future

By the Rev. Canon Dr. William J. Danaher, Jr., Rector

One of my favorite anthropologists has a saying: “Institutions that forget their founding vision founder.”

That is to say, institutions start with a vision for the future, and living into that future is essential if an institution is to thrive and survive. If an institution forgets its founding vision, however, its end is near. No matter how well-resourced that institution might be, or how strong its network, or how valuable its contributions, a vision-less institution is doomed to decline and death.

This coming weekend, we celebrate the founding of our parish on September 29, 1928. We give thanks for George and Ellen Booth, and their many friends and family members, who generously donated the funding necessary to build the parish. The Booth vision for Christ Church Cranbrook was that it be the cornerstone that held together and integrated the different interlocking stones of the other institutions they were building in the Cranbrook Educational Community — institutions dedicated to education, art, and science.

Even more important than this integrating work, however, is the generosity of the Booth family. This generosity is evident in a favorite saying of George and Ellen, “The only way to have is to give, the only way to keep is to share, and the only thing worth finding is opportunity.”

Standing behind this approach to philanthropy is their vision that Christ Church Cranbrook would be a place that lifts up generosity as a way of life. Generosity isn’t about the amount of money you give, or time you devote to a purpose or project. Each of us, I suspect, know at least one or two people who contribute a lot, but still struggle with a shriveled soul and a closed heart.

Rather, generosity describes the joyful and open stance we show to others and toward our world. Generosity describes the response we give to God’s infinite love and blessings in our lives. Generosity goes with the flow of the gift God gives us in Jesus. Just as God has given God’s own self to us in Jesus, so do we give ourselves to others. And when we give ourselves in this way, we discover the joy and the beauty of God in this world. It was this combination of service, joy, beauty, and Jesus that stands as the true vision behind Christ Church Cranbrook’s founding.

Over the past year, a large group of leaders in the congregation gathered together to draft as strategic plan and craft a vision that will guide us over the next three years. The vision we developed — which is meant to answer the question, “What do we hope to achieve?” — connects our founding to our future. The vision is this: That we will be a place known for four intersecting activities: Meeting Jesus, Finding Joy, Sharing Beauty, and Serving Others.

These activities might seem different from each other, but we believe that each needs the other to be truly fulfilled.

We meet Jesus when we discover the joy that meeting him brings, the beauty he reveals, and the ways we are called to serve others as he does.

We find true joy when we meet Jesus, experience beauty, and find the perfect freedom there is in joyfully serving others.

We share in beauty when we see all the ways meeting Jesus, finding joy, and serving others bring out what is truly beautiful in ourselves and others.

We truly serve others when our service reveals joy, beauty, and Jesus. For Jesus is the model of all loving service, liberating joy, and transfiguring beauty.

Our goal is for as many people as possible to participate as much as possible in each and all of these activities.

In this vision, we see the same integrating and reconciling work of the church as George and Ellen envisioned it. The cornerstone that holds together these four activities is not only our church, but the love of God in Christ.

Most importantly, underlying all of these activities is a deeper movement of generosity. We want others to experience these activities with us, because when they do, we discover the abundant life that God calls us to, the gift of living generously, and the blessing of being able to love others as Christ loved us.

May this four-fold vision lead us onward into the future that our founders imagined. May we walk forward, together, through grace and by faith.

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