Last week I participated in a continuing education event in Santa Fe, New Mexico sponsored by the Episcopal Church Building Fund entitled “Upward Bound” and led by The Reverend Charles N. Fulton III, Ms. Mary May, and Ms. Sally D. O’Brian. Our instructors were fantastic. It was a watershed week for me and an outstanding group of colleagues from around the country as we explored skills for congregational leadership.
On Wednesday afternoon, we had some free time. Several of us ventured out to Bandelier National Monument, a forty-five minute drive from Santa Fe. There we explored the ruins of native American cliff dwellers and reflected on what their life must have been like. The Anasazi people, ancestors of modern Pueblo people, built thriving communities there about 600 years ago. Several thousand Ancestral Pueblo dwellings are found among the pink mesas and sheer-walled canyons. The sites in Frijoles Canyon near the Visitor Center were inhabited from the 1100s into the mid-1500s.
This community, like those that existed in places such as Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde, had an orderly life, storage facilities for the fruits of their agriculture, trade with others as far away as Mexico and Central America, and places for corporate worship. We are not certain how their civilization ended or why. But it did. The conditions that were necessary for its continuation changed and the people were not able to remain in this location.
It made my colleagues and me wonder about the future of our own communities, cultures, and civilization. As we seek to provide strategic leadership for the future, we seek wisdom and understanding from the past.
Just because things change does not mean everything has to disappear into the mists of history. Our Creator has equipped us with memory, reason, and skill so that we can make strategic and timely adjustments as things change. It is a part of God’s unfolding plan for creation and we get to play a major role in that plan. Creation continues and human beings have the opportunity to be co-creators with God in the process that ultimately leads to the fulfillment of all things. What a remarkable and awesome privilege!
The Anasazi cliff dwellers mysteriously disappeared. Yet, today we continue to appreciate the life they lived and the contribution they made to human history. There are elements of their life that are timeless aspects of every successful human community, such as their ability to cooperate in pursuit of a common objective, systems of communication and commerce, planning for the future, sharing and mutual support in both good and difficult times, and worship of a supreme being. Each generation leaves its own unique mark. As we work together in the building of our community, let us hope that someday others will look back upon our era and our values with a similar appreciation.
Colleagues from Upward Bound