These days, I approach the word “heritage” very carefully. So many traditions and customs, when carefully inspected through our 21st century lens do not hold up. They were charming at one time, but only accessible to a privileged few. As we see things through more of a global, multi-cultural, anti-racism lens that is more realistic to our lives now, the word “heritage” often signals that we will be reckoning with it rather than celebrating.
From the Oxford dictionary, heritage is “valued objects and qualities such as cultural traditions, unspoiled countryside, and historic buildings that have been passed down from previous generations.” The entry uses it in the sentence, “a sense of history and heritage.”
Finding the parts of our heritage that we are proud to lift up, like using our GOD IS LOVE pulpit, is reconciled every week with heritage from our past that do not instill pride in us today. When we know better, we do better. When we pay respect to, and remember that Lenni Lenape people were here before us, when using pronouns to introduce ourselves so that more silenced people feel included, these are examples of continuing a heritage to be proud of, building in new patterns.
As we live our daily lives, independently and as a congregation, we are building a heritage of love. Not by dismissing the parts of our heritage that we are ashamed of, or outgrew, but by placing ourselves into an age old pattern of looking to the past with honor and respect, not afraid to do new things.
Heritage is not just our past—we are always building on it. May we continue to do the hard things, reconciling the great parts of heritage with the problematic parts. It’s the way we have always done things around here.