I don’t pretend to remember anything about the Charter Day address given by Harold Cranch when I was a senior in high school at the Academy 50 years ago. But I must have retained something, because some of his points are ones that I would now make myself. He said: “Why is Charter Day so important that it is recognized not only by the Academy schools but by the whole Church? The men who dreamed the dreams, and those first inspired by the vision, have long since passed into the spiritual world. The next generation, who made this vision their dream also, for the most part have been called to their eternal uses; and a third generation are now old men dreaming dreams. But now we live in a different world, beset by many new problems bearing little resemblance to the problems of yesteryear. Can we expect the dreams of former generations to inspire the vision of this generation, beset by its own problems, acutely aware of its own needs?”
Here he is pointing out that Charter Day is not just a school event but one that is about the church and the purposes of our entire movement. He is asking why we should be inspired by the vision of people four generations back. He goes on: “Thus does youth challenge the importance of the purposes of former generations, which have become to them the "Establishment" trying vainly to preserve the ideals of long ago against the reality of this day? But so often idealistic young people look to the external problems of the Establishment rather than to the living principles that underlie it. Difficulties are bound to exist in any organization in its efforts to fulfill its uses.”
I’m sure that I was irked to have this old man referring to “the Establishment” with air quotes there in the Cathedral pulpit. He asks: “But how can the ideals of the Academy, seen by a few, and carried out more or less imperfectly in the lives of a few men and women of this day, help solve the great problems of our age?”
With that he launches into a discussion of the environmental issues that beset our planet. This was the year that Earth Day was first observed, and ecological concerns were on people’s minds.
“Does the Academy's work contribute to the solution of this tremendous problem? Not only does it have a contribution toward the answer, it has the only complete and long-lasting answer that will remove the problem from mankind.”
He is not saying that the New Church has a quick remedy for climate change, but that the underlying principles of true religion are the long-term solution for every issue faced by humanity.
I don’t know whether that made any sense to me as a senior, sitting in a pew surrounded by joking classmates, and nervous about that afternoon’s football game, which we would lose by a lopsided score. But 50 years down the road, as I celebrate another reunion with these same joking individuals, I think that Harold had a good point.