USA Today recently featured 13 of the newest roller coasters in the country. These thrillers promise higher speeds, steeper drops and sharper turns than their ancestors. From Cedar Point in Ohio to Wisconsin Dells to Orlando to Dollywood and beyond, these whiplashing wonders carry brave souls higher than a 20-story building, hurtling them downward at freeway speeds. After twists and turns and dips and swirls riders debark to check off bucket lists and look for buckets.
The nation’s newspaper overlooked a local coaster. Here in beautiful downtown Arnolds Park, our amusement area boasts the “Legend.” But then again, it’s not new. Built in 1927, it’s the 13th oldest wooden roller coaster in the country. The highest point is a mere 63 feet and that drop will generate 41 mph. It might blow your ball cap off if the wind is right. But here’s the thing: The Legend is greatly loved, even if old, slow and low. Impressive stats make headlines, but legends link generations.
This year park officials demonstrated their commitment to The Legend old or not. Portions of track were replaced at a cost of $250,000. The ride will be smoother and a little faster. But as one reporter concluded, “She’ll still have just enough clickety-clack.” We could use more “clickety-clack” in our lives. We need to ride (or scream or laugh…or for that matter, worship) where our grandparents did. Thrills come in assorted flavors. The best are oldies but goodies.
Recently, a church workshop took me to Chicago. There I sat under the teaching of William Taylor, Rector of an Anglican Parish in London. Taylor was a fascinating bloke. But what really captivated me was the fellowship he serves. St. Helen’s Bishopsgate was birthed as a church and priory in 1210. The place was already a legend in the 1590s when one William Shakespeare was a communicant there. St. Helen’s is still going strong. The squat stone artifice is nestled in London’s financial district. From there the winsome rector and his congregants boldly proclaim the legendary love of God in Christ to urban financiers. The best and most enduring gifts sometimes come in the least ostentatious of packages.
As we enter another summer season in Iowa’s Great Lakes, our little tourist heaven, it’s good to remember the lesson of The Legend. Boats, bikes, and bars can offer a certain thrill. A little vacation merriment is a good thing. But life only finds full meaning when rooted deeply in ancient and eternal Truth. This is found in Jesus Christ alone, revealed in the Bible and alive in His bride, the Church. I recently worshipped in a church with ancient roots. Some of the branches of that group have grown brittle, but for this believer, it was rich to draw from the deep history, tradition, and generational bequest of Christian Truth they bear.
Nearly 30 Christian churches in our small county proclaim Christ as Savior in deed and word. I serve the beloved old summer camp meeting, the Okoboji Bible Conference. That place still has its clickety-clack after nearly 80 years here. On our campus, we regularly pray for the safety and Divine blessing of all our summer visitors. While enjoying every healthy diversion the area has to offer, it is good to remember that some old school Christian assemblies can still be doorways to new life in Christ. Transformations like this are the stuff of legends and they’ve been happening for a long, long time.