As we prepare for our building rededication this weekend (thanks be to God!), I have had the extraordinary privilege of preparing a historical sketch of Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church. The church, founded in 1850, has done an amazing job of keeping pieces of history locked upstairs in the archives. The archives committee was really on top of things, especially at the turn of the 20th Century. Along with my occasional visit to the archives, one of our new members has been spending hours each day sorting through the things in the cabinets. He came downstairs yesterday, explaining how he could hardly wait to show me what he had found.
In someone's scrapbook left to the church was an article clipped from the September 17, 1950 Washington Post. The article was written the day after a beloved former pastor of MVPUMC, Dr. John Rustin, preached his final sermon at the church.
Dr. Rustin served MVPUMC from 1936 - 1950. He was here when many of our longtime members joined the church - during the war years of the 1940s. I am told that he never forgot a name. He went out of his way to welcome young people who were new to the city. He was a visionary leader who built the church to more than 4,000 members. And, I now know why. The Washington Post article tells how Dr. Rustin told the "misty-eyed gathering of more than 1500 persons" how the church is not liberal enough. The article, written by Thomas Schlesinger, a Post Reporter, reads:
"Doctor Rustin told the congregation, 'the trouble with the church is that it is not liberal enough,' and then spelled out what he thought the church of the future should be like. 'When the church becomes a real factor in the life of the people,' he said, 'first of all, it has vision and is not expending all its energy in defending creeds or standing on ancient dogmas. 'It should challenge the people to move beyond its warped emotions and deep-seated prejudices,' he continued, 'and it should always move into action."
The trouble with the church is that it is not liberal enough!
The church needs to be a real factor in the life of the people!
The church must have vision; it cannot expend all its energy on defending creeds or standing on ancient dogmas!
The church must challenge the people to move beyond its warped emotions and deep-seated prejudices!
The church should always move into action!
Is it any wonder that Mount Vernon Place grew during Dr. Rustin's tenure? Is it any wonder that people - especially young people - wanted to be a part of this church -a church that was moving - a church that was making a difference in the lives of people? Is it any wonder that people will come to a church that is focused on what is important - being the kingdom of God here on earth?
These words were spoken 58 years ago. People heard them, and people wanted to be a part of it!
Thank you, Dr. Rustin, for your legacy. May we continue to embrace your message. What an amazing place this is!