Plymouth Church has an amazing history. When you sit in pew 89, you wonder what Abraham Lincoln prayed when he sat there. You can turned off the lights in the basement—where runaway slaves passed through on the Underground Railroad—and imagine what it feels like to run for your life. When you are in the pastors office, you may think of Branch Rickey—a member of Plymouth Church and General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers—praying there until he decided that God wanted him to invite Jackie Robinson to integrate baseball.
Some of our church’s heritage is complicated. The sculptor of a statue of Henry Ward Beecher and a bas-relief of Abraham Lincoln in our church garden was Gutzon Borglum, who also created Mount Rushmore. Borglum was a member of the Klan.
The founding pastor, Henry Ward Beecher, was a gifted minister who fought courageously against slavery and was considered the most famous man in America. His adultery trial sold a lot of newspapers and ended in a hung jury.
Every church has a history with which to deal. Churches stuck in their history keep talking about how great it was years ago. Churches that have forgotten their history mistakenly believe that there are no good gifts older than they are.
We can be grateful for our past without being trapped in it. We do not need to choose between being a museum and a church. We explore what God has done and discover that God is still at work.