This year as we remembered and gave thanks for the lives of many saints and souls, we also gave thanks for our Pilgrim Hymnal, retiring after more than 60 years in service!
Tagged with All Saints
On October 27, we heard Ephesians 1:15-19 and these reflections on saints of our congregation.
Emma Hefty Mitchell, remembered by her daughter, Jean Moscariello
The person I most admire is my mother, Emma Hefty Mitchell.
My mother was a very devoted Christian and very generous, helping others whenever she could. She instilled in me good values and I have tried to be like her.
Emma was born in 1905 and was placed in the Cradle Roll of the church. In 1991 she and George Hefty were 2 of the six Centennial Babies we celebrated at our Centennial Covenant. She was a member of the church and attended faithfully until 1927 when she married and moved to Guilford, Connecticut. However, when she came to live with me she once again became a member. It meant so much to her.
I would now like to read excerpts from a letter I found that my mother wrote to give you an idea how things were a hundred years ago at Union Church:
“My association with West Concord Union Church began on My 14, 1905, when I was enrolled in the Cradle Roll at the age of 2 months. Mary B Lane was Superintend of the Cradle Roll at that time and for the next 3 years she sent me a birthday card on March 23 which I still have. Mr. Campbell was pastor then. As I grew older my mother took me with her to Prayer Meeting every Wednesday night.
I well remember the huge Christmas trees which were set up in that same room. The presents from the parents and other relatives would be brought and put on the tree and Christmas Eve Santa would be there and climb on a high step ladder to reach some of the presents and call the name of the person it was for. I’ll never forget the night I received the biggest doll near the top of the tree which I very much longed for. When my name was called I instead received a small baby doll from my Aunt but before the evening was over I did receive the big one which my daughter now has.
When I was in my teens I joined the Christian Endeavor Society and spent many happy hours with that group.
I became a member of the church May l, l921 when Alfred Stone was pastor. Before that I remember attending Sunday School when Mildred Stone was my teacher and we met in the choir cloak room, some of us sitting on the steps.
When I got married in 1927 I moved to Guilford, Connecticut and attended the First Congregation Church regularly but could not bring myself to take a letter from the West Concord Union Church until 1950 when I did finally join the Congregational Church.
My memories of the years at Union Church are very dear to me and I still have connections there through my daughter, Jean Moscariello, and brother, George Hefty, and attend church whenever I come to Concord.”
I give thanks to God for the life of Emma Hefty Mitchell.
Mary Aldrich, Marilyn Cousins & Edna Wagner, remembered by Ann Schummers
I give thanks to God for 5 amazing women. They were known as the lunch bunch because they shared birthdays, holidays and fun times together.
They loved each other, they loved their families, they loved their friends and they loved this church. They are role models for all of us.
Mary Aldrich shared her beautiful voice with our church and with other places of worship, including a Synagogue. She cared for countless little children in her day care program with gentleness, kindness and love.
Marilyn Cousins sang in our choir and rang bells for many years. Her nursing background helped her care for children and her loving gentleness helped her care for all who knew her, especially her husband Norm and her family.
Edna Wagner gave us energy, enthusiasm, and an eagerness to share her love of travel. She loved Wednesday morning Bible Study and never missed a day unless she was in China, Antarctica or wherever! She showed us how powerful friendship can be and what we can give each other.
Fran Gardella is a saint and she is still with us as we worship. Her laughter, her kindness, her energy and her skills as a teacher enrich our lives on a daily basis. She has served this church as a Deacon, a Trustee, and a member of the Fellowship Committee and Helping Hand. She is a joy to us all.
Annie Holt is another saint sitting in our congregation every Sunday. Her warmth, her smile, her gentleness, her laughter warms our hearts and caresses our soles. She was a teacher for many years and she continues to teach all of us to share the love of God with all who touch our lives.
We are all blessed by the presence of these women in our lives.
Miriam Coombs, remembered by Constance Putnam
I first met Miriam Coombs when we served on one of the sub-committees of Concord’s 350th celebration. When the chairperson asked for a volunteer to serve as secretary, no one budged—until Miriam said that she, as a former high school English teacher, could perhaps manage. When she discovered I would be driving past her house to attend those meetings, she said I could easily give her a lift to subsequent sessions of the committee. I liked her immediately, for that directness and its correctness.
From then until the day she died, Miriam was my closest friend in town, despite the age gap. Or maybe because of it; certainly I benefited from her Elder’s Wisdom on many occasions. Many people—including a number here today—also were close friends; Miriam was generous with friendship in many forms.
I learned that only later, when Miriam—figuratively speaking—opened the door of West Concord Union Church for me, giving me a community I had not had up to that point in town. Miriam cared deeply about this church, and she served it in many ways, too many to list here; a couple of examples will give the flavor. She used to quietly make sure Sunday Fellowship members were well served during coffee hour and befriended Charles, who still remembers her. For a number of years she directed the children’s choir. Long after she gave up that connection with the children, her favorite Sunday was still Children’s Sunday. Thus I was very surprised the year she told me not to pick her up on Children’s Sunday because she was not going to church. When I asked why not, she said simply that the children get excited—as they should—and rush around. She did not want to risk one of them knocking her off balance. “Just think how terrible that child would feel if I fell?”
More dramatic and more important, because very public, was what Miriam said the day of the congregation’s vote on whether to go on record officially as an Open and Affirming community. When someone moved to table the motion for six months to allow additional time for discussion, Miriam pulled herself up, using the back of the pew in front of her (she was 91), and said, “I am not in favor of the motion to table—because who knows whether I will still be here in six months? I want to be able to vote on the issue itself, and I want to vote YES!”
The motion to table was defeated. The vote in favor of this congregation making public its Open and Affirming stance was overwhelming.
And an old woman led them.
Julia and John Forbes, remembered by their son, Maynard Forbes
My parents, John and Julia Forbes, were strong church people who were involved with the church as long as I can remember. John came from a Presbyterian church in Merrigomish, Nova Scotia and Julia came from a Baptist church in Greene, ME. When they married they joined the Winthrop Congregational Church where they were very active and where they made sure Carolyn and I attended church school and church regularly.
When we moved to West Concord in 1951 joining the West Concord church was one of the first priorities. Julia sang in the choir and became involved with the helping hand society. She also was also a Deaconess and stalwart member of the flower committee. A quiet presence but she was always there. John was an usher and chaired the ushering group for many years. Because he was in business in the community he knew and met many people so when a new face came into the church he was always there to greet them, and see that they were well received. John served on the trustees and was involved with many stewardship campaigns. He was also involved with counting the collection after church. He dealt with money every day so this was a simple task for him.
John might do a little bookkeeping or sneak in a quiet project at the store on a Sunday, but Sunday was a day of rest from the work of the store. Even as more stores would be open on Sunday he held the line on being closed on Sunday. Sunday was church day and the two of them were very regular attendees. Together they lived strong Christian lives with a faith in God and faith in the church. Following John’s strong work ethic has helped me throughout my life. Julia’s patience and love provided a great solace as a youngster and many other times through my life. They were great examples to follow. I thank God for the lives of John and Julia Forbes.
In the book of Revelation, John of Patmos recounts what God has unveiled before him in visions and in voices. One of the most famous passages from John’s writings is the one we hear today: a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. In this new reality, John writes, God is at home among the people. There is no mourning or crying or pain anymore. Even death has ceased to exist. All things are made new, and God says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”
Is this what is in store for us? I have to say, I hope so. It is one of the more beautiful passages in scripture about what might come next.
People often turn to the church, and to scripture, when they are wondering about the great mysteries of death and dying, heaven and eternity. And it’s not only adults. In confirmation class, this is always one of the most popular topics. Children like to ask questions about it, too. We all want to know what will happen to us in the great beyond. We are curious, also, about what will happen, and what has happened, to those we love.
These questions are particularly prominent in this time of year. I often think of this as the dying time. Leaves are falling and plants are sinking back towards the earth. People often find their way back to the earth, too, following the tidal movement of the season. This is a time when the barrier between the living and the dead feels thin, as we celebrate All Hallows Eve and The Day of the Dead and All Saints and All Souls. Today we’ll continue our series of visual sermons, focusing on what lies beyond.
When we think of the church’s view of what lies beyond, I am afraid that too many of us think first of the Last Judgement, an idea based around passages from the Gospel of Matthew and Luke. Here is Michelangelo’s depiction of God judging the people, sending some to heaven and others to hell. The idea is attractive because it is so concrete. Do good and end up somewhere good. Do bad and end up somewhere bad. Trust that God will mete out justice in the end to anyone who treats you badly. But what does this theology say about God?
Looking at the upper left hand part of this picture, you can see the people who are being elevated into heaven. This is the good news part of the picture. Everyone should look happy. But even though they are safe in the clouds, surrounded by light, they don’t seem to be enjoying themselves. Instead, they’re staring to the side in apprehension.
Maybe that’s because, right next to them, they see this: an absurdly muscular God making a threatening gesture, sending lots of other people down below…to flaming torment. I find nothing here that could be the will of a loving God.
Our scriptures and our church traditions were inspired by God, but formed and recorded by humans. Therefore, when an idea like the Last Judgement fails the test of demonstrating God’s love, it is best we look elsewhere for guidance. Thankfully, we have many other scripture passages that suggest an entirely different reality after death.
In the Gospel of John (Ch 14), Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples. He tells them: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. I will go and prepare a place for you; I will come again and will take you to myself,so that where I am, there you may be also.”
In the book of Romans (8:38-39) Paul writes: “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Throughout the scriptures, we learn that God loves us; that we belong to God; that we are made and remade in God’s image; that we are a precious part of God’s holy creation. It is fitting, then, that after our human lives are over, we would all return more deeply, more fully, to make our home in God, who is our beginning and our end.
This leaves, still, the question of saints, and souls. Where are those we have loved and honored? How can we visualize the great cloud of witnesses who are hovering around us?
Probably you have seen pictures like this: saints in gold, carefully posed. Most of our images of saints in the west are like this: white people, in fancy clothes, often with halos, lined up in orderly ways, as if for a photo opp. The saints knew how to stand in a line, apparently. These images are beautiful, but limited. Thankfully, some artists have tried to help us expand the way we imagine the saints.
Some of my favorite saint images are from the Catholic Cathedral in LA, where tapestries depict saints of all ages and cultures and skin tones, both famous and unknown, including children. These images help remind us that there have been holy people all around the world, and in every social location.
Another favorite is the work of Robert Lentz. He who writes icons and creates images that depict those who have not normally been recognized as saints: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Caesar Chavez,and Eve, mother of us all. Brother Lentz also depicts those who have been formally recognized as saints by the Catholic Church, but whom we may not be as familiar with, or choose to feature, including ancient Armenian saints Polyeuct and Nearchus, and the recently sainted Josephine Bahkita., from the Sudan.
While I love to be inspired to by the images and stories of courageous people who have changed the world, I have to admit that the most powerful saints and souls in my life are the ones that I have known, and cared for. Each of us have our own group of those we remember tenderly; here are a few images of those who many of us remember from our shared life here.
Beautiful, aren’t they?
Many of us experience fear or anxiety in thinking about death. All of us experience grief at the death of those we love. As we stand on this side of the mystery, God offers us at least two gifts. First, the promise that she is not only our beginning, but also our end, that she will provide a loving home for us. And also, that we will have with us in that home each person who has made our time on earth better: legions of saints and souls, a cloud of witnesses, also safely in God’s care, and accompanying us into eternity. Thanks be to God.
This past Sunday we read from the book of Hebrews and remembered the example and support of the saints and souls who surround us, those who are living and those who have died. Along the way we celebrated a baptism, welcomed new members, and dedicated our new Memorial Tree. Take a look below!