I was ordained to the Ministry of Word & Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) on October 14, 1990, at Penfield Presbyterian Church.
The photo tells you how long ago that event was — I have only this one image, of poor quality. In 1990, taking a picture involved flashbulbs and film — not a good thing when a church service is in process. I’m not even sure which of my family members snuck this picture.
The Penfield church was in a suburb of Rochester, NY. The majority of people in that congregation worked for either Kodak or Xerox. The man to my right was a presbytery office-holder whom I never saw again. The man to my left was the Clerk of Session and also the Chair of the Associate Pastoral Nominating Committee that hired me. He was a Kodak executive. I believe he is reading me the ordination questions in this picture.
“Do you promise to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love?”
In 1990 Kodak was the king of photography. Moments worth remembering were called “Kodak Moments.” A job at Kodak had many benefits. At church there were many people my age who expected to have lifelong careers there. Some of them were second-generation with the company.
Digital photography was in its infancy when I was ordained and installed at that church. At coffee hour or Session meetings people would sometimes discuss digital photography. The consensus was that a digital process would never equal, let alone replace, a traditional film process.
Last year Kodak declared bankruptcy. It’s tenacious hold on its film processing cost it its position in the marketplace.
If you want to draw any church-y metaphors from this Kodak moment I will not stop you.
To me, this is a cautionary tale: Don’t get too stuck on a particular process, but keep an eye on the result. In Kodak’s case, the desired result was the ability to take a great photo. In the church’s case, the desired result is the ability to form great disciples of Jesus Christ. Exactly how that gets done is not the thing to clench onto, not when the world is changing.