Friday, December 19, 2003
Carlisle's bicentennial is approaching: Time to celebrate the past and plan for the future
The year 2003 is almost over, and that means two important town anniversaries are right around the corner. The 250th anniversary of Carlisle's creation as a district is next year, and 2005 will mark 200 years since Carlisle's incorporation as a town. The Board of Selectmen have formed a committee to organize special festivities for this bicentennial, and are seeking more volunteers.
One way to celebrate such an occasion might be to tackle a project that will spruce up the town or enhance public safety. Possible projects might include fixing the Greenough Pond dam, installing a portable defibrillator in Town Hall, or beautifying the Town Common by burying the utility lines.
We all know Carlisle has changed a lot over the last two centuries. Even though Carlisle began very small and rural, the government provided many social services — some we would be surprised to find local governments undertaking today. For instance, before 1832, the town supported the (only) church, and paid the minister from tax revenues. The town also took care of its poor citizens. During the 1840s Carlisle paid about $425 per year for the care of the poor. The poor farm, located on the current Town Forest land, was established in the early 1850s and was supervised by a town committee called the Overseers of the Poor.
While the government in some sense had a greater role in people's lives, fewer people had a role in the government. Women were not allowed to vote or even to speak during the early Town Meetings. This started to change in 1894 when Massachusetts gave women the right to vote in local school committee elections. (Women won the right to vote in all government elections in 1920.)
A bicentennial is also a good milestone at which to stop and review the town's long-term goals. Will Carlisle still be a place worth celebrating after another century? Is our stewardship of the land and water adequate to protect them for future generations? And how will the need for town government and services change as Carlisle's population grows? How will the population and concomitant traffic growth in the surrounding region affect Carlisle? Members of town government already try to do quite a bit of long-range planning, though they usually look only five, ten, or at most twenty years ahead. As we approach the Carlisle's bicentennial, one might ask — would the town make any different decisions if planners considered a century-long time frame?
The Promise of peace
I am sitting in my study on this cold December afternoon, waiting for the snowstorm predicted for this weekend. I am not yet ready for a foot of snow or more. I know winter is coming, and in New England winter means cold and snow. I have never been enamored of a white Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of a birth — the birth of a Savior. It's a wonderful time of the year no matter what the weather is.
For Christians, the four weeks before Christmas is the season of Advent. In the church, it is a time of waiting, of longing, of expectation. We await the coming of the Prince of Peace who promises peace on earth, good will to all. For centuries people had been waiting, waiting for God's promise to be fulfilled. During Advent we too wait for his coming. We look for hope because we often feel discouraged. We look for peace and see violence and terrorism instead. We look for that love for our neighbors that expresses good will to all, but often see selfishness or even hatred. But the promise of Christmas still remains and gives us hope.
During these weeks before Christmas all of us are looking ahead to the celebration of the holiday. That is my temperament as well. I rarely look back on the past. My focus is usually on what will happen today, tomorrow or next month. I have a very poor ability to recall details of past events. OK, I know that I was ordained on January 10, 1952; that my mother died on June 30, 1992; that I came to St. Irene's as pastor in August 1988. But ask me about less important events that happened a year ago or five years ago and I go blank. I've always envied people who could remember events and dates and details of the past. For eight years Father Terry Langley assisted me at St. Irene's while he studied for his doctorate in theology at Boston College. Father Terry had a phenomenal memory. He was able to recall people and events of ten or fifteen years ago very clearly. He was also a weather junkie. While I would fumble around trying to remember the dates of a blizzard in the 1960s, Father Terry would rattle off the whole story of a powerful snowstorm.
Even as we approach this Christmas season, I tend not to look at Christmas past, but rather look ahead to the Christmas which is coming soon. While I still savor the joys of the feast with my parish family, and share the joys of gifts and food with my own family, I look ahead to Christmas present as we celebrate in our church the birth of the Savior Christ the Lord. It is a day for our own rebirth to a stronger faith; to a new hope for peace on earth. Today especially, the promise of peace strikes a responsive chord in all of us. We yearn for peace in a world of so much violence. We long for peace in our world, in our families, in our own hearts. Jesus comes as the Prince of Peace.
© 2003 The