In a normal year, this upcoming weekend would be a significant time of celebration on the island as two key days once again arrive on our calendars. This Saturday, the fourth Saturday in June, is the date of the annual Daufuskie Day celebration that would bring back so many who have family ties to the island. There would be story telling as a way of remembering days long since passed, singing and dancing, lots of different food to sample, and tours of the island that would take people past old family homesteads and other significant heritage sites. Then the next day, the First Union African Baptist Church celebrates the anniversary of her founding in 1881, typically marked by many guest speakers, testimonies from those who grew up in the church, wonderful fellowship, and then a great feast for all who wished to attend. The entire weekend was focused on celebrating the past as a way of informing the present, with the hope of helping to shape the future.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a normal year and large celebrations have thus far either been extremely modified or cancelled outright. For us, the Daufuskie Day celebration has been pushed off until next year, and the Church anniversary will be a much smaller affair with fewer in attendance and no feast after the service. So many who would have gathered together this weekend to share stories and keep past events and memories alive won’t do that this year, and that brings a certain risk with it. There is a risk that important parts of history will be lost.
An African proverb states that when an elder dies, a library burns down. At this unique time in our nation’s history when we are trying to better weave together our collective histories, it is so important for us to not lose the stories that have shaped us. The stories that our elders share are treasures for us to build on, if we are wise enough to hear them and hold onto them. Unfortunately, in a year marked by an insidious illness that is particularly devastating to the oldest of our population, we are more likely to see vast libraries of knowledge burn down this year, just at the time when we need that history the most.
God commanded the Israelites to celebrate certain key events every year, such as the Passover feast, so that they would always remember their heritage and what God had done for them. God understands how the human mind works, and therefore his command to celebrate that day was done because He knew that the Israelites would quickly otherwise forget. If they forgot what God had done for them, they would ultimately forget who God is, how much He loves them, and how He wants them to live. Even missing one year of celebration can lead us away from remembering the magnitude of the past.
We all need to be vigilant this year, so that when dates of significance arrive on the calendar that we are unable to celebrate as we normally would have, we still spend time remembering why those dates are so important. Those events from the past have shaped us, as individuals, communities and as a nation. What was important for the Israelites is just as important for us today – if we are to be the people who God wants us to be, we must accurately remember our past. This is especially true when we can’t gather together to celebrate.
Peace and blessings – Pastor Aaron