Tradition

Daniel Meeter

For my morning devotions I pray the Daily Office. I had first started with the Roman Catholic version, but about six years ago I switched to the Book of Common Prayer. One reason I did so was for the excellent collects of the Prayerbook. A “collect” is a compact prayer with a specific fivefold structure of address, attribution, request, result, and closing. (See John Witvliet’s introduction, “Collective Wisdom,” in the Christian Century of July 29, 2008.)

Collects came into the Roman Mass already by the sixth century. It was the English Reformer Thomas Cranmer who brought them into Morning and Evening Prayer. Cranmer used traditional ones from the Roman rite and new ones of his own. Over the years the Prayerbook was enriched by collects written by other contributors, including some excellent modern ones.

This summer I was particularly taken by the collect for “Proper 12,” the last Sunday in July:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

As I prayed this collect all week, I thought, “That could have been written by Calvin.” Look at it, does it not express his piety? In fact all of the collects for July feel Calvinist. I wondered who wrote these prayers. Were these by Cranmer himself, Calvinist that he was, or maybe Hooper or Parker, or some later Conformist of Reformed persuasion?

When I came home from vacation I looked these collects up in Hatchett’s Commentary on the Prayerbook, and discovered that all of them were Roman collects, and only slightly revised. How remarkable that Roman collects should feel like Calvin. What does that say about Calvin’s brand of piety, and his ecclesiology, and the nature of the Reformation, not to mention the best aspects of the Roman tradition that he was reforming?

I was led to some further reflections. How is it that Calvin never brought such treasures over into his own liturgical legacy? He accepted the use of Roman Catholic buildings and monetary endowments, so why didn’t he accept the use of good Roman Catholic prayers? Why didn’t Calvin do what Cranmer did, or even Bucer, for that matter? And then, on the more distant and broader horizon, why do some of us Reformed people have to make ourselves suspect by always nosing around the Anglicans?

***

I grew up in Christian school, but because we lived in Brooklyn, that meant Lutheran school. And that meant learning Matins and Vespers along with my 3 R’s. The school took teaching the tradition as part of its task. We had to memorize daily scripture verses as well as Luther’s Small Catechism. “This is most certainly true.” I can remember first being taken by the words of the Te Deum when I was in fifth grade. For my brother’s graduation service I was an acolyte, and that service affected me powerfully, with the music and the incense and the light. While the worship of my home congregation never dissatisfied me, I think that Lutheran service was my first taste of transcendence.

About ten years ago I spent a month in Hungary, at the marvelous old library in Debrecen. I was doing some research on metrical psalmody. There I was taken by surprise by some liturgical books from the early generations of the Hungarian Calvinists. As I had expected, these books included the Genevan Psalms, but they also included vernacular translations of Roman canticles and chants and antiphons, with the original music maintained. (Not even Luther kept the Roman music–his versions of the canticles were metrical.) The Hungarians’ books were designed for a rich liturgical schedule of services throughout the week. They did what Cranmer did, only, for my part, better: they included the Genevan Psalms and the Heidelberg Catechism, and, maybe just because they were Hungarians, they included the music.

When I saw these books I was moved. I won’t go so far as to say that I suddenly felt at home, but I did feel like at last I was okay. It was okay to want what I want and still be Reformed. I saw an ancient precedent for my desires. To want what I want is not necessarily incipient Anglicanism.

But then I wondered what had happened, that so little of this richness carried over into the Hungarian Reformed tradition that I had come to know. The librarian told me that subsequent generations were heavily influenced by the English Puritans, which led them to a general purging of all that material. It is to be understood. As the Hungarian Calvinists began to be persecuted by the Roman Catholic authorities, both mitered and crowned, the more puritan Calvinists of England, Scotland, and the Netherlands were powerful and necessary friends. But I don’t think it’s sufficient to explain the purging as only a reaction. There is something built into Calvinism that accepts tradition in principle but eventually discourages it in practice. Sort of like the USA and peace.

***

The Lutheran Reformation was a reformation–a cleaning up of the tradition that was there. The Anabaptist Reformation was a revolution–a rejection of the tradition and a reconstitution on new first principles which were claimed as the most ancient principles. The Calvinist Reformation was in between, or both. We know that Calvinism was a reformation in accepting Roman Catholic baptism and the teachings of the Church Fathers, but we also know that Calvinism was revolutionary in politics and economics, as in the Netherlands and among the Puritans.

Calvinism is a historical movement as complex as its founder, and our modern conservatism is mixed with a revolutionary distrust of tradition. In his book The Constructive Revolutionary: John Calvin and His Socio-Economic Impact (John Knox, 1971), W. Fred Graham shows how John Calvin was willing to scrap what he found in place at Geneva in order to replace it with what he considered better and more biblical. Well, maybe we’d let Calvin take such liberties, but many other less-deserving of our leaders have done so as well, and we let them get away with it. I am claiming that a lack of feeling for tradition is a tendency built into Calvinism, a tendency which will always make a problem of tradition. Tradition is certainly not something that we love.

Abraham Kuyper called his political party “Anti-Revolutionary.” But Kuyper was complex; he could even be as contradictory as Luther. In many ways he was a revolutionary, and not always reluctantly so.   There is something built into Calvinism that accepts tradition in principle but eventually discourages it in practice. Sort of like the USA and peace.   Kuyper opposed the political revolutions of 1789 and 1848, but when it came to ecclesiology, he was considered a revolutionary by his allies who never seceded from the established Reformed church. His claim of restoring the church constitution of Dort was convincing only to his followers.

My own denomination, the Reformed Church in America, generally regards its tradition as a liability, or at best an heirloom. We do not love our tradition. We put no resources into making it formative for our people, and we regard the maintenance of our tradition as an inverse function of our corporate future. We have no feeling for tradition in general. And so, while on the face of it, the RCA is questionably Calvinist in the positive terms of doctrine, devotion, and discipline, it still is negatively Calvinist in terms of what it rejects.

This negative side of Calvinism is partly a reaction to the hostility of Lutheran princes and Catholic France and Catholic Spain and Catholic Austria, King Charles and Archbishop Laud, but we cannot deny that it goes back to our found
er. To be fair, what we Calvinists have had a feeling for is scripture, especially the Old Testament. A wonderful feeling for the Old Testament has distinguished the Reformed tradition (and has made a difference in our treatment of the Jews). If Cranmer gave us collects, Calvin gave us the metrical Psalter. Not just the words, but also the music. And yet, tragically, I did not learn these in church, because the RCA had lost them. I had to learn them from my grandparents, and not in English, but in Dutch. And then later in Hungarian, from my first parishioners. The Christian Reformed Church held on to the Psalter much longer, but if you consider what CRC churches are singing these days, you have to grieve for all the labor that went into their gray Psalter Hymnal. While I was still in seminary, a local rector encouraged me to seek my ordination among the Episcopalians, and I finally told him I would not because I did not want to give up the Genevan Psalter. What was I thinking!

What formed me in my childhood as a Calvinist, despite my early Lutheran schooling, was Bible reading at the dinner table. Our family read through the Bible (sometimes in Vos’s children’s version). We sang hymns, too; I learned four-part harmony at the table. And then we prayed–each one of us. It was our Daily Office, manifestly so. My parents were brought up in this tradition, and they passed it on, as did so many other families in the RCA, and I believe that this was the real source of the characteristic piety of the RCA.

But the “family altar” tradition has died out with the daily family meal. That leaves Sunday school and the worship service as the only institutions for passing tradition along. But we don’t ask or expect this of them. We say that this is because tradition makes seekers feel uncomfortable, and we’ve convinced ourselves that “mission,” or the winning of new believers, is the primary purpose of church, and therefore also the primary purpose of worship. But also involved in this devaluing of tradition is intellectual laziness, a penchant for entertainment, a lack of discipline, and the negative remnant of our Calvinistic tendencies.

The eastern wing of the RCA has always been more positive about tradition. I can think of several reasons for this. First, while the Midwestern RCA (and also the CRC) came out of the Dutch secession, the eastern RCA was founded and developed as an established church, and our habits were less narrowly Calvinistic and less unlike Anglicans and Lutherans. (For example, we see our churches as “parishes” as much as “congregations”.)   Van Ruler is able to make tradition something distinctly Reformed, as opposed to Anglican or Lutheran, by sourcing it in the living power of the Spirit but also keeping it under the judgment of the Son.   Second, we spoke Dutch in the East for 150 years, which was long enough for our Dutch traditions to develop their own life in North America. It was in order to maintain our Dutch traditions that we finally translated them into English. By contrast, the immigration to the Midwest experienced language change as a definitive break with the past. The choice was to be Dutch or American (witness how some of our English-speaking congregations in the Midwest were not called “Second Reformed” but “American Reformed”), while in the East, to be Dutch was to be very, very American. Third, by the nature of the case, the whole culture of the eastern seaboard has always valued tradition (and not only superficially) more than the Midwest and the West.

The fourth reason is both less historical and more important because it is theological. For a couple post-war generations, Howard Hageman tirelessly taught and modeled a synthetic way of being positively Reformed, which placed a high value on tradition at no expense to relevance. He was not native RCA; he chose it for love. His Calvinism was broad, strong, sophisticated, and very positive, with most of the negative filtered out. One of his main sources was the post-war Reformed Church of the Netherlands, which few in the RCA knew better than he did, even though he had grown up a Methodist. (If James White is correct that Methodism is “pragmatic traditionalism,” then maybe Hageman’s Methodist background helped him appreciate tradition more than most.)

Meanwhile from that same Netherlands source, some Reformed theologians in North America were discovering the work of A. A. van Ruler. His influence has been small but steady, like a bird song outside your window, easy to miss but always there. Van Ruler answers a need and fills a gap in our theology. His doctrine of the Holy Spirit goes way beyond the narrow categories of the English-speaking world, not to mention Barth and Kuyper. His doctrine of the Spirit has huge implications for the doctrine of the church and on the meaning of the Kingdom of God. Van Ruler is able to solve some of Kuyper’s contradictions in ecclesiology by means of a more fully Trinitarian approach. He’s better than Kuyper on church and state. He’s better than Hendrikus Berkhof on history and culture, and he’s better than Nevin on the presence of Christ in the Supper.

To the point, van Ruler is very good on the meaning and value of tradition, and on its relation to the Holy Spirit. He’s able to make tradition something distinctly Reformed, as opposed to Anglican or Lutheran, by sourcing it in the living power of the Spirit but also keeping it under the judgment of the Son. For my part, van Ruler offers a positive approach to tradition that goes way beyond just personal taste and preference.

***

I recently had a meeting with some RCA colleagues who are new-church-planters. I guess I am an-old-church-keeper by comparison. But I respect the work they do, and I believed them when they said that they respect me too. In conversation I discovered that we mean two different things by the “Kingdom of God,” or at least two different tendencies. For them, the scope and impact of the Kingdom is personal and individual, tending toward the special and even miraculous. For me (as for Kuyperians and Barthians) the Kingdom is far more comprehensive. It is no less cultural than personal, no less institutional than individual, and no less organic than miraculous. For them, “signs and wonders” are typically inexplicable and often supernatural, while for me “signs and wonders” very much also include the sacraments, rituals, and symbols of the church, which are signs that point us to Christ, make us begin to wonder, and serve our imaginations and affections.

One of these colleagues suggested that my congregation might grow much better if we sold our church building and started renting space in a local public school. Well, he’s not wrong. Just a few years ago Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church planted a new Presbyterian Church in America congregation right near us, using a local school, and they have outgrown it many times over. And I do honor that church and its pastors. (They even have weekly Eucharist!)

But I think my colleague is wrong in the narrowness of his judgments. Our church building is part of our identity. Not just in the sociological sense that “we shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us,” as Churchill said. But theologically our building is part of us, because we believe it is part of the Holy Spirit’s work with us and our mission, and for better or worse, our building is the concrete expression of our tradition. It so happens that only two adult members of my congregation grew up in the RCA. None of my members feel like they need to be RCA–they are RCA only because our congregation happens to be so. We take our general mission to be a “community of Jesus” for God and for our neighbors. But consciously choosing to be stewards of our historic Reformed church, including our building, is one of the particular missions we have committed to, including s
uch other things as education, music, fellowship, sanctuary, and hospitality. We recognize that our building is a very visible and concrete expression of the institution and tradition to which we voluntarily commit.

Communicating our attitude is not an easy sell in the RCA, where the phrase “institutional church” has negative connotations. (Is this partly why we have a hard time with the sacraments, just because Christ “instituted” them?) From childhood, we are taught that the church is the people, not the building. We know! We know! It so happens that our building is monumentally outstanding for beauty, size, and historical interest. Our building’s shape, layout, and location enhance our prior missions of music, sanctuary, and hospitality, including, lately, our homeless ministry. At the same time, our building is our greatest liability. There are things we hate about our building. It is not great for our missions of education and fellowship. Our sanctuary has its drawbacks. Our building’s huge expense is the greatest threat to our long term survival. If we didn’t have our building, we certainly wouldn’t build it.

But to sell our building strikes me as a repudiation of the work of the Holy Spirit among real people in real time. For, at least according the Apostles Creed, the first work of the Holy Spirit is the holy catholic Church. Under “catholic” I include the realities of the church in time, and by “forgiveness of sins” I include learning to love even our difficult building, and by “communion of the saints” I include the concrete (literally) witness of former generations of our congregation, and by “resurrection of the body” I include the physicality of the world.

In two different ways, church buildings function as living expressions of the RCA tradition in the East. In the Classis of Brooklyn, for example, many of our church buildings are registered historic sites because they sit at the center of our neighborhoods and define those neighborhoods. (Van Ruler would say, controversially, that they “christen” them.) For example, the center of Flatbush is the corner of the avenues named Flatbush and Church, and there stands our Flatbush Church, the oldest continuing congregation on the same site in New York. They have maintained a house of prayer at that location for over 350 years. That congregation does outstanding social ministry in their neighborhood. Today the congregation is mostly African- American, though everyone still calls it “Flatbush Dutch.” Their building and their tradition enhance their mission.

My own congregation is in its fifth building and on its third site in 350 years, so it is far less intimately connected with our neighborhood. Yet it is the center of Park Slope, and it’s regarded as public space. On certain weekdays we open it to the public as a place of prayer. The elevated beauty of our sanctuary suggests transcendence and feels like prayer. It is also a meetinghouse where the whole community gathers several times a year. For our first century we were the only church in the Town of Brooklyn.   By “forgiveness of sins” I include learning to love even our difficult building, and by “communion of the saints” I include the concrete (literally) witness of former generations of our congregation, and by “resurrection of the body” I include the physicality of the world.   Our status as Brooklyn’s mother church is evident in the borough’s antique motto, Eendraght Maackt Maght–“Pulling Together Makes Strength,” or “In Unity There is Strength,” a Dutch motto during the war of independence from Spain and much later in 1825, attached to the bottom of the coat of arms of William the Silent for what would become the crest of the RCA. One of our Sunday school teachers told me that our church’s deep identity with this borough is important to his spirituality. We don’t think we should exclude all this from our corporate obedience.

My second example is more difficult. In North Jersey, the early Dutch Reformed Church developed a unique style of church architecture. I can name several examples right off: First Hackensack, Dumont, Old Paramus, First Wyckoff, Pascack, Saddle River, and Ramapo. They are manifestly churches, as opposed to meetinghouses, and their gothic windows predate the Gothic Revival. Three doors across the front, a central belltower, and two or three sets of windows deep, depending on the congregation’s size, and always of stone, except for Ramapo. The South Presbyterian Church of Bergenfield seems to be an intruder, until you learn it was originally Dutch Reformed. There is no other group of churches like this in the world. Their modern congregations have made do with these buildings, because, though wonderful, they have their drawbacks. Howard Hageman loved these churches. Should the RCA as a whole? Is the care and preservation of these buildings deservedly part of the mission of our denomination? It is one thing to be proud of them, but should we love them as part of our discipleship? I do not suggest that we imitate them when we build today, as they who built them would not today, for they were practical people using the style that was up-to-date. And we could not imitate them, because their buildings reflect a Constantinian Christendom that is quickly passing away. But we should be careful to learn from them and judge ourselves by them, as is always proper with the elderly.

My congregation hosts visiting youth groups for summer mission projects. We have them do the usual work in homeless shelters and soup kitchens, or Bible school, or critical repairs for our poorer congregations. Last year we crossed a line. A group of fifty young adults from Wisconsin came to refurbish our sanctuary’s magnificent brass chandelier. It is huge, maybe forty feet from top to bottom and at least twelve feet across. Even when it’s lowered to the floor, it still requires scaffolding to work on it. The group spent a whole week restoring what you might consider an unnecessary extravagance. Yes, they enhanced its functionality, but what really energized them was the restoration of its beauty. But even more than that, the chandelier began to have spiritual meaning for the group. I watched it become a sign and a wonder. Not very Calvinistic. The line they crossed was the spiritual value of tradition, even in a very concrete version of it, as being worth the sacrifice of one whole summer week.

***

I hear many pastors express frustration with the powerful affection of many laypeople for their church buildings. I know as well as anyone how the preservation of a building’s furniture is a great temptation for congregations, but I do not interpret their love for their buildings as implicitly unspiritual or as necessarily a liability for mission. J. J. von Allmen wrote that worship needs mission no less than mission needs worship, but to collapse either one into the other does disservice to both. Despite all the current propaganda, I think that people know in their bones that the first purpose of the church, in every sense of “church”, is worship, not mission. Are we allowed to say that? We are taught this by the first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” I know that the current slogan from Brunner and Newbigin is that “the church exists for mission as a fire exists for burning.” That slogan is taken as an established theological principle, while there is no more scriptural warrant for it than for saying that “the church exists for worship as a fire exists for burning.”

Some of us are called to be evangelists, but all of us are called to be worshipers. And if the Westminster Catechism is correct, then the church building is the place where our laity do that very thing which makes them most human. It is where they experience transcendence. No wonder they feel loyal to it and want to lavish upon it their love and affection. They are bound to feel judged when they are c
ontinually scolded that their first concern should be out there in the world.

I have extensively used the example of church buildings as the expression of tradition instead of, say, church music because, to the unchurched world, the word “church” ordinarily means a building and an institution more than it means a people. If you say that you “go to church,” you’ll be asked, “where,” not “with whom.” And yet, if we define our mission only by the New Testament, we will be biased against church buildings. There is not one church building mentioned in the New Testament, apart from private homes, except of course the Temple in Jerusalem, and that was an object of judgment and destruction.

But if our mission is defined by the whole of scripture, as is proper to Calvinists, and if we maintain a two-Testament vision of the Kingdom of God, then we may give more positive place to church buildings. In two-Testament terms, the problem with the Temple was not that it was a beautiful house of worship, but that its special incarnational significance had been replaced by the person of Christ. In two-Testament terms, it’s not that there should be no Holy Land, but that all lands should be sanctified. The Great Commission has the goal of converting, not individuals, but nations, and that must include real estate and institutions. Church buildings can have positive value not only as houses of prayer for all people, not only as hospitable sanctuaries for anyone seeking spirituality and hope, not only as tangible expressions of what we believe, and not only as substance and encouragement for our imaginations and affections, but also as markers for the sanctification of the landscape under the Reign of Christ. Yes, just as the Sabbath is the sanctification of time, and tithing is the sanctification of money, so church buildings can mark the sanctification of the landscape. And just so, tradition can mark the sanctification of culture, provided we accept (again van Ruler) that such sanctification is always provisional under both the blessing and judgment of Christ.

***

I am not prepared to say that the tradition of the RCA, such as it is, is a great tradition. That’s like saying that your own language is beautiful. Of course it is, but there’s no way that Dutch is as beautiful as Italian. Yet you can say some things in Dutch in a way that you can’t say them in English, and Hungarian can achieve a sound for the Psalms that is unique. Scripture is quite clear that God wants every tongue to make its own contribution to the sound of universal praise. We are not unitarians, especially when it comes to language and culture. The tradition of the RCA might have a very minor place in the symphony of traditions, maybe like the E flat flugelhorn, but it does have its place. “God was here, and I didn’t know it. This is Bethel, the house of God.”

What I am prepared to say is that the RCA has a wrongful attitude towards both its own tradition and towards tradition in general (and I don’t doubt the same is true for the CRC), and that what Calvinism we’re left with is more negative than positive. This has an impact on our common visions and our corporate choices and on the style of leadership we foster. What I’m talking about has nothing to with favoring insiders over outsiders; Howard Hageman was an outsider, and so, in many ways, was John Henry Livingston. Neither am I talking only about the RCA’s current fascination with “leaderism,” but instead a general susceptibility to both fear and fashion, an indulgence of anti-intellectualism and ignorance, and an impatience with accountability.

If a denomination is anything, it is a structure for mutual accountability, and our tradition is one of our most important accountability structures. For a Reformed church, unlike for Anglicans and Methodists, tradition may never be a source of revelation or even of doctrinal authority, but it should be a force for discipline. We observe the tradition as an act of self-discipline and as an antidote to arrogance, self-righteousness, and “chronological snobbery,” as C. S. Lewis called it. Abraham Kuyper wrote that a written liturgy serves to protect the congregation from its pastor!

I attended a prosperous RCA congregation this summer which lacked, as I expected, a salutation, prayer of confession, and an assurance of pardon. I was prepared for no Apostles Creed. What surprised me was that there was no Lord’s Prayer. Who are these leaders, I thought, to take these things away from the worship of God’s people? The pastor prayed the prayers. All two of them. His long prayer was long, but authentic. Of course, it followed a very formulaic formula, which though unwritten, I’m sure the congregation was familiar with. But despite the prayer’s authenticity, it was like a one course meal with only one food group. There was so much that was not in that prayer, so much richness in the Christian life of prayer that was not offered to God’s people.

When I graduated seminary, the RCA’s Liturgy and Psalms of 1968 had not yet fallen out of use. That book contained a section called “A Treasury of Prayers,” and it was aptly named. It had examples of all the prayers a Reformed pastor ever needs.   People know in their bones that the first purpose of the church, in every sense of “church,” is worship, not mission. Some of us are called to be evangelists, but all of us are called to be worshipers.   Now, I’ve been praying out loud in public since my childhood. But I have enough of a conscience to know the difference between glibness and relevance. I’m grateful that my first congregation allowed me to base all my Sunday prayers on what was in that book, and that Treasury was for me a school of prayer. I learned to pray with economy, precision, directness, and clarity. I learned to pray for all sorts and conditions of humanity and the whole state of Christ’s church, not just for the local hospital list. I learned the rhythms of adoration and petition and intercession. I exercised my prayers. When our kids take piano lessons we expect no less of them. What in our theology makes us think it is different when we pray?

One of the chief values of tradition is how much it is a school of prayer. I hope we’re all beyond the bias that an extemporaneous prayer is by definition better than a read prayer. One of John Witvliet’s recommendations in his article on collects is that people learn the collect form and try their hand at writing them, as training in the leadership of prayer. He suggests it would also help with sermonizing, and I have no doubt that he is right. I don’t know if it is true that Japanese school children write a haiku every day, but why shouldn’t seminarians write a collect every day? I required my liturgy students to memorize the RCA Eucharistic Prayer and, using the same outline, to compose new ones of their own. How better to develop a praying awareness of the Holy Trinity? You train your mind, and then even a collect reveals its deeper Trinitarian energy. Perhaps the most important purpose of the Christian tradition is to keep us fully Trinitarian, not only in doctrine, but in experience and life. The Puritans didn’t anticipate that they would beget us Unitarianism.

I was in my second congregation, in the Ontario countryside, when I began to realize my need for a disciplined devotional life. I tried a variety of books and forms and patterns. One day, at a conference on liturgy in Toronto, I told a young Orthodox priest that I was jealous that he served in a parish that had daily morning prayer in which he could participate, while I had to pray alone. He answered by saying that Protestants don’t know much about prayer. He said it really makes no difference where you are. He said that Orthodox people can pray in absolute solitude while in the middle of a crowded church, and yet while alone and “in the desert” they can pray in full communion with the church of earth and heaven.

So I started to use t
he Daily Office for my devotions. When I repeat the psalms and read the lessons and pray the prayers I am in the company of thousands and thousands of others around the world who are doing exactly the same, quite literally “having this same mind.” And no less across the ages. I am praying along, not just in spirit, but in the very words they used, with all those who have gone on before, and who are “alive to God.” Yes, Father Cranmer, I am praying this with you, as you sit waiting, imprisoned in the Tower. Yes, you pre-Reformation believers; yes, I know what you mean in the collect for Proper 12, when you ask God that “we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal.” I know that tradition is only a “thing temporal,” but I am encouraged by scripture (1 Corinthians 3:14, Revelation 21:24) to believe that the good of it will not be lost among the things eternal.

Daniel Meeter is the pastor of Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York.