How does one define a community? There are many ways. One could define it by the people who inhabit it, or by geographical lines that circumscribe it. Everyone knows that Charlestown has always had a strong sense of community, and it is a community that has often been significantly affected by decisions made beyond its borders. To cite just one example: the construction of the Mystic River Bridge (now the Tobin Bridge) resulted in the loss of a number of residences and dramatically changed that part of Charlestown bordering the Navy Yard. Those old enough to remember that time will also recall that the Rev. Wolcott Cutler, sometime rector of St. John’s, was instrumental in preventing the planned access ramps to the new highway from destroying the historic Training Field.
Many in Charlestown are now reacting to the decision to approve the Everett site for a casino in eastern Massachusetts. Opposition in Charlestown to this decision is not simply an example of “NIMBY” – not in my backyard. You do not need to live in Charlestown to be concerned about implications of this project. We all belong to a larger community, and all of us will be affected by the growth of casino gambling in the Commonwealth, regardless of where a building is located.
Over the last few years, Episcopalians in Massachusetts have consistently opposed the expansion of casino gambling, in particular because of its effects on the poor and those susceptible to addiction. Both the Diocese of Massachusetts and the Diocese of Western Massachusetts passed resolutions at previous diocesan conventions opposing the expansion of gambling in the state. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church, representing the entire church, is also on record as as opposing any expansion in gambling.
I cite these decisions not to suggest that they dictate what any of us should believe about this social issue; persons within the larger church and in our parish no doubt have a variety of views. Rather, I mention them to remind us that we are part of a larger community. That community is the one being formed by Jesus Christ, in which we are always asked to consider how any choice and any decision we make will affect not only us, but especially the least and most vulnerable among us and around us.