Landmarks and Memory

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In Proverbs 22:28 we read, "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set." Landmarks are important for giving us a sense of grounding and place. Indeed the dictionary defines "landmark" as — "an object or feature of a landscape or town that is easily seen and recognized from a distance, especially one that enables someone to establish their location: "the spire was once a landmark for ships sailing up the river"

To establish one's location how very important that is in the journey of life. Just as a road sign, a map, or the GPS, assists us in getting to where wee want to go, so too landmarks help us as well.

The old story goes that a Vermont farmer was out haying when a luxury model car pulls up from out-of-town. Any wry humorous Vermont yarn always starts out with a farmer and the city dweller, as we know. Well, it seems that the "city dweller" steps out of his car and asks direction of the hard working farmer. He is looking for a neighboring farm in the area. The good Vermont farmer is only too willing to oblige and tells him, "Mister, just go down the road about three miles to where the old maple tree used to be. It's two miles to the left of that."

This tale reminds us of the importance of landmarks, be they natural or man-made. We need these landmarks to give us a sense of place and grounding. Landmarks, like tradition, give us a sense of sense of being. The Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 reminds us. "So then stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter."

Families, cultures, and nations have traditions and landmarks that bind them together as people. Think for a moment of family holiday gatherings. It just wouldn't be the same if certain heartfelt traditions were not part of the experience. The reason for these traditions may be lost to time but nevertheless they are important.

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Traditions and landmarks communicate to each and every generation that they are part of someone greater than themselves. Sadly, over time we have witnessed the destruction of many important landmarks in both this country and abroad. War, natural destruction, and the worst of all, disregard for the importance of our heritage and once gone these structures can never, ever be replaced. Like creatures lost in the natural world, extinction is forever.

Bill Bryson, in his book The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America reminds us that: "[Traveling] makes you realize what an immeasurably nice place much of America could be if only people possessed the same instinct for preservation as they do in Europe. You would think the millions of people who come to Williamsburg every year would say to each other, "Gosh, Bobbi, this place is beautiful. Let's go home to Smallville and plant lots of trees and preserve all the fine old buildings." But in fact that never occurs to them. They just go back and build more parking ..."

How very blessed we are, living in this southwestern corner of Vermont to have such beautiful, tangible reminders of our heritage. Dotting the roadsides of Vermont are the many white clapboard meeting house which (along with the red covered bridges) define what makes this state "Vermont."

We are fortunate to have one such meeting house here on Route 7 north in the village of Shaftsbury, directly across from the `Propagation Piece' orchards. Many drive past this historic landmark with little notice. However, this Vermont meeting house has great historic and spiritual significance in the history of this state. It is the oldest Baptist Meeting House in Vermont, founded in 1768, a mere seven years after the incorporation of the village of Shaftsbury. Interestingly, the body that governed all of the Baptist churches in Vermont was known as "The Shaftsbury Baptist Association." Many important meetings were held in this structure.

This Sunday, June 30, 2019 the North Bennington Baptist Church, Redeemer Lutheran Church, and the Shaftsbury United Methodist Church will be gathering for the annual "Heritage Day Celebration" at the church. This community wide event is open to everyone and we invite you to join with us as we celebrate our national and spiritual heritage of freedom.

The Rev. Richard McSherry is pastor of Shaftsbury United Methodist Church. The annual Heritage Day celebration service will be held this Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Old Baptist Meeting House (now the Shaftsbury Historical Society) on Route 7A North opposite the intersection of West Mountain Road. Info: 802-442-4599


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