EDITORIAL: WE BELIEVE IN INSTITUTIONS
James K.A. Smith has an amazing way of tapping into our inherent design, calling it to the forefront of our conversation, and helping us to understand how we are further cultivating the virtue of it or working to destroy it. In the article below he discusses the importance of institutions and how our actions are either about bolstering them or tearing them a part. His insight in so many areas is one of the blessings God has given to the Evangelical world.
For a boy growing up in Ontario, it was never a question: you're going to play hockey. Though Embro was a village of only 600 people at the time, we had a new arena, a robust minor hockey system, and a long legacy of the sport encoded in our civic DNA. So at four years old, we all moved from the pond to the ice pad, donning the purple hockey sweaters that many of us wore until we were twenty.
This was also part of something bigger. You could count on neighbouring villages like Drumbo and Plattesville and St. George having minor hockey systems, all webbed together by the OMHA.
When you're ten years old, you think this is just part of the furniture of the cosmos; something given, natural, and taken for granted—that Saturday morning clinics and Tuesday night practices are just part of the rhythm of the universe, as if when God said, "Let there be light," the big klieg lights in the rafters of the arena also came on. You never really think about what sustains all this, and if you do, you just imagine some anonymous "them" holds it all together, a vague, distant "they" who are responsible for all of this.
But when you're an adult you realize: this doesn't just happen. That something as mundane and yet enduring as Embro minor hockey is not a given; it is an institution. It is only because it is sustained by communities.
It is bigger than the people who inhabit it, but it also depends on the people who embody it.
The "they" you never saw in your youth turn out to just be people like you who have taken the reins and taken ownership. We could only take minor hockey for granted because, in fact, each generation received it anew, owning it, tending it, reforming it, and passing it on to the next generation.