It’s time to let the past go

The greatest challenge we have to face as a community has nothing to do with politics, race, the economy, or education. The greatest challenge before the Mahoning Valley, and especially the city of Warren and Trumbull County, is the challenge to let go of times gone by and bravely step into the future of our city and our county.

In my previous column, I challenged leaders across the Valley to welcome the leadership of young people in order to draw young people to our area – even if significant organizational change is required. Any hesitance to take this step is deeply connected to what I want to address here: our community culture of paralysis and complacency, which is fed by a failure to accept change and lead into the future.

This week, the United Methodist Community Center, formerly the Rebecca Williams Community Center, officially relocated to First United Methodist Church on Park Avenue. There is a kind of historical symmetry to this move; the Rebecca Williams center was founded by the church decades ago, and when the UMCC needed a temporary home while theirs was receiving repairs, the partnership worked so well that leaders from both organizations decided to make it permanent.

After the UMCC moved to the new site earlier this summer, their already vibrant program for assisting homeless veterans tripled in size. Members and leaders of the church, if asked, are excited to have their building used throughout the week as a tool for transforming people’s lives. The staff and leadership at the Community Center are equally as thrilled to be partnered in this way.

Many people throughout the city have fond memories of the Rebecca Williams Community Center; these memories are so cherished that many blanched when Rebecca Williams became the United Methodist Community Center. I don’t doubt that some in the community feel it is again a great disappointment to see the UMCC relocate from a building that has been so significant to our community.

Outside of the UMCC’s new home at First Church large banners read, “Our Legacy Continues In a New Location.” This little tagline seeks not only to make clear the purpose of the move but also to assuage any hesitancies or misgivings some might feel.

Had the leaders at First United Methodist Church and at the UMCC chosen to adopt the all-too-prevalent attitudes of looking back at the past, they would have forfeited a unique opportunity to serve our city. But because they chose to bravely step into the future, more lives are being affected by the Community Center than they were just a handful of months ago.

This new partnership serves as a case study to which we should all pay close attention. People across Trumbull County and the city of Warren would do well to mimic the attitudes of the leaders of both of these organizations, foregoing clinging to the past and instead embracing change as a way to serve people and transform our city.

You see, what many fail to realize is that we can’t return Warren to the city it once was – industrious, beautiful, welcoming, and bustling with energy – by going back. We can only revitalize Warren, and our county, by moving forward. Such steps are being taken by organizations all across our county.

In the name of full disclosure, I am a staff member and pastor at First United Methodist Church, though the decisions about this relocation and partnership were made just as I was coming on staff at the start of the summer. I want to make it clear that I’m not “tooting my own horn,” as it were. Instead, I’m thrilled to be a part of an organization that seriously considers the needs of the community and works hard to improve our city. I’m also thrilled to work alongside the Community Center as it serves our nation’s heroes.

But most importantly, I’m thrilled to be present at a time such as this, when we move forward into the future with hope, courage and a passion for the transformation of our city.

Tennant is a Warren resident. Email him at