One the best books I have recently read is “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown about the University of Washington’s eight man crew and their gold medal victory in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. It is a terrific read. Brown tells the story of the crew mostly through the life of one of the rowers, from his freshman year and on into adulthood. The story of their victory in Berlin is thrilling. We have a Pasadena connection with those Olympics. Mack Robinson, older brother of Jackie Robinson, and after whom the Post Office on the corner of Orange Grove and Lincoln is named, was a silver medalist in those Olympics, in the 200 meters, finishing four tenths of a second behind Jesse Owens. There is a story there too.
The book is also about the power that can come from people working together. One of my very best friends was on two Olympic teams in the 8 man crew, in 1980 and 1984. They were world champions during those years. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter ordered a boycott of the Olympics in Moscow because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (oh the ironies of history) and did not compete. In 1984, they won a silver medal on Lake Casitas, four one hundredths of a second behind the gold medalist Canadians.
There may be no single event that takes such team work and effort in combination than crew. I rowed a couple of times with Chip on the Potomac in a double scull and it is hard, really hard, both in terms of skill and effort. But when it works, it is wonderful. We all know that effort matters, and that working together with others can bring not only accomplishment but meaning and joy.
Our annual pledge drive is coming up, and I urge us all to think about what it means to be a part of something larger, part of a group, a community, and what we give and what we get. We pull together in a congregation, and it takes everyone to get to where we want to go. Like the University of Washington crew, the year of the Olympics was special, and so is this year for Neighborhood. Looking forward to new ministerial leadership is exciting – it is for me! – and this pledge year is an important one. A successful pledge drive will mean a lot in the search process.
Brown’s book is a good one; I recommend it. But I also recommend Neighborhood Church – it’s a great congregation.
-Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson