Aug. 14, 2016
Dear Hyde Park Family,
Imagine having to drive to St. Petersburg without using the Gandy Bridge, the Howard Frankland Bridge, or the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Imagine the travel time, the traffic, the headache. Those bridges drastically cut the distance of forty-three miles between Tampa and St. Petersburg down to roughly 19 miles!
Now multiply the impact of those bridges by a factor of 150. Then you’ll see the importance of the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan.
I had the pleasure of seeing it when I was in Michigan last week. I had the honor of preaching and lecturing for the Methodist-related Bay View Association and connected with two of our church members Rusty and Pam Carpenter. Last Monday, they drove me all along the northeast coast of Lake Michigan, through lovely harbor towns and picturesque villages. We eventually made it to Mackinaw City on the northernmost part of the “mitt” portion of the state.
Sixty years ago, anyone who wanted to drive from Mackinaw City to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan would either have to take a ferry boat or drive all around Lake Michigan to get there. That’s down through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and the entire eastern coast of Wisconsin. To get to St. Ignace, Michigan, which is only eight miles as the crow flies from Mackinaw City, a person would have to drive 1,640 miles!
That is, until November 1, 1957, when the Mackinac Bridge was open.
It is one of the longest bridges in the world, and at five miles, is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere. More importantly, it is one of the most durable bridges ever built, able to withstand winds of up to 600 miles per hour, and was one of the first to be stabilized against the usual twist and torque of previous bridges.
The man at the center of this impressive bridge was an engineer named David B. Steinman, one of the most prolific and significant bridge designers in American history. His resume includes 400 structural projects, including the Hudson Bridge, the reconstruction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and numerous bridges in Canada and South America. But none have been more impressive, or more important, than the bridge commonly nicknamed “The Mighty Mac.”
Steinman saw his bridges as more than just functional structures; they were also works of art, and cultural metaphors for society. Toward the end of his life, he was a prolific poet, who once wrote of the Brooklyn Bridge: “A bridge is a poem stretched across a river, a symphony of stone and steel.”
Among his most famous poems was this one, titled “I Built a Bridge.”
I built a bridge across the tide
To reach a long-dreamed goal;
And there, beside a woodland stream,
God’s peace restored my soul.
I built a bridge across a vale
To reach a flower-strewn slope;
My plan was traced as sunbeams wove
A rainbow arch of hope.
I built a bridge across a gulf
To reach my fellow man;
With heart aglow he came halfway
And helped me build the span.
I built a bridge across the years
To reach tranquility:
I did not know how beautiful
The last of life could be.
I built a bridge across the dark
To reach the unknown shore,
And there I found supernal love
And peace forevermore.
Steinman recognized that the power of building bridges was not just in shortening the driving distances between two points. It wasn’t just in guaranteeing travel safety against the treacheries of wind and water. It wasn’t just for the sake of building monuments that would stand the test of time.
Bridges bring people together. They broaden our understanding of people and places that are beyond our regular experience. They build communities, enhance lives, and connect different people into unity and commonality. In the words of Steinman’s poem, bridges help us reach unknown shores, to find “supernal love and peace forevermore.”
That is the heart of our new worship series, simply titled, “Life With.” It is a series about our most important relationships, and a reminder that we cannot make it through life alone. Each Sunday from now through Labor Day, we will explore a different “bridge” that connects to different people in different ways.
This Sunday, we will start with the most basic relationship of all: our families. We’ll learn how to strengthen the bridges among those that know us best.
On August 14, it’s all about our youth, and the importance of building bridges with the “Now Generation.”
On August 21, we will remember the impact that being in a small group can have on building bridges to deeper spiritual friendships and greater commitment to Christ.
On August 28, we will reinforce our bridges to the needs of the community around us, focusing on our second campus called The Portico.
And on Labor Day Sunday, we will renew our connection to God, whose relationship with us was forged through the bridge-building work of Jesus Christ.
Five Sundays, five bridges, each of them critically important, all of them reminders of how we are not alone in this life. Join us as we draw this summer to a close, and discover how Life With one another and with God is the best life of all.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist