Last month Hollywood came to Dorchester when a major motion picture was filmed in a home five doors down from the church. One aspect of the production involved transforming the neighborhood to look like Detroit in 1968, including lining Ashmont Street with vintage vehicles (the Boston Globe even took a photo of an old Michigan state police car directly in front of the church). According to the studio representatives that I spoke with, our community looks the same as it did fifty years ago.
This made me wonder if anything has changed in a half century. I would agree that all the homes were older and little has changed to the exteriors in decades. However, the interiors have been transformed – both in demographics and amenities. Looking at just the houses in our neighborhood doesn’t reveal the diversity of ethnicities of their inhabitants – people with roots in every continent now live here – which was largely absent fifty years ago. Looking at just the houses in our neighborhood doesn’t reveal the upgrades of 21st century life – the larger rooms due to advances in insulation materials and the larger televisions due to advances in technology – nearly unimaginable fifty years ago. It may not look like it, but we are a different community than we were in 1968.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)
In a similar sense to all of Ashmont Street, Calvary is both old and new. The church’s exterior has changed very little in the last five decades; in fact, it looks just as it did when it was built in 1936. Also, like the houses around the church, our function has not changed – we continue be a home to a wonderful family of faith who come together regularly to worship, learn and serve within and beyond its walls. But who we are as a church and how we communicate as a church has changed greatly over the years, just like our neighbors: we are much more diverse with much more technology.
The church, like the homes that surround it, has adapted over time without major alteration in appearance. We continue to be what we’ve always been: an evangelical church. Our message and our motivation remain the same; we long for every person in our community to know that Jesus came to save sinners, of whom we are the worst. But, in proclaiming that good news, we have modified our methods over time: we have added to our tradition forms of communication the practices of corresponding digitally, interacting globally and engaging through social media.
In thinking about the film crew that, for a few days in August of 2016, transformed our neighborhood and turned the clock back to a time when I was still in diapers, I marvel at how much has changed and how much remains the same. We are still a group of good people who love our kids and our country, who pursue the American dream and peek over fences to envy what the neighbors have, and who occasionally struggle to make ends meet and stay healthy. It is a blessing to call this place home.
Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe