COVID-19 has shattered or sent shock waves through the relationships that we all knew and took for granted. Families are inhibited from seeing close relatives, or if we do, there are cautious restrictions and protocols to protect the elders. It is an anxious and fearful time. Teachers are learning to relate differently to their students, to teacher in person AND remotely, in the same way clergy and music directors are re-learning how to be in relationship with their people. Our community has been dislocated and the community we once knew has been shattered and fragmented in a way no-one could have imagined a year ago. Our nation is struggling to re-connect with each other and who knows what the election may bring. The racial and economic divide has never been more obvious and demands our attention and repair. RE-MEMBERING is now our task. How do we re-connect that which we assumed was whole and united?
The importance of tradition
Coming from a deep and abiding tradition of religion (from the words TO BIND TOGETHER) our Jewish ancestors kept recording those moments in Israel’s history when fragmentation and loss of identity was repaired by remembering the blessings given by the Creator God and the times when God’s people forgot who they were and what God was calling them to become. Amnesia is the Bible’s greatest concern, so re-membering was essential to the health and well-being of God’s people from time began.
A young rabbi is about to be executed by the state for his radical views on religion and politics and he takes a cup of wine and a loaf of bread and asks his friends to remember him. Every time I repeat those words at our altar every Sunday, first recorded by our patron Saint Paul, there is something timeless about the human cry from one generation to another, to simply “don’t forget me”. We all want to be remembered for something, and those precious moments with loved ones and future generations of grandchildren and mentees, all reinforce this basic human connection. Apart from our Sunday celebration of the eucharist, there are many ways in which this community remembers those who have gone before.
Remembering through flowers
After a long Covid 19 induced freeze, we have reinstated memorial flowers on the altar each Sunday. You can remember a loved one through a simple gift of flowers that are usually divided into lovely flower decorations and given to our homebound and sick members of the congregation. The Flower Ministry is looking for volunteers who would like to help with this ministry (usually on Monday mornings). Clergy and lay Eucharistic ministers share with a few of you who deliver flowers and cards to those who need to be remembered. People are also remembered in our weekly prayers.
On Sunday 1st November, we will remember our loved ones who have died and are with God. All Saint’s Day is a moment when the church remembers the people who sacrificed and gave us life and the resources and opportunities many of us take for granted every day. There is not a day passes when I think of these family members and friends, or those who built this beautiful sanctuary, employed local artisans and loved this place as a house of prayer for all people. We invite you to send names of people you would like us to mention at the altar and to give flowers in memory of a loved one. These memorial gifts ($75) also go to support the flower ministry to the homebound as well as beautifying the altar on Sunday.
Legacy –In the company of angels
As we plan our budget for 2021, I am also aware 25% of every ministry here…the music, the family and youth, the clergy and staff, are all possible because of the generosity and faith others had in us to continue to be Christian witnesses in a fragmented and broken world. The Legacy Society here continues that tradition and to all of you who have re-membered St Paul’s in your wills and estate planning, I say, thank you. The parish endowment and the Anne Stookey Fund allows us to support a quarter of what we do here every day. The Investment Committee carefully manages this blessing and the Vestry is dependent on creating a sustainable budget every year through member pledges and the draw from the endowment. We are surrounded every day by the blessings of God, the saints of God and those who simply re-member.
We can only bring our fragmented anxious parish and community together through faithful remembering and stopping to give thanks through treasure, flowers, home visits, Eucharist and recalling the mighty deeds and people of God. When a parish, a person or a country forgets where we have come from and how we got here…..we inevitably get in trouble. Knowing we are all passing through this place, what is it about being remembered and remembering that brings balm and peace to the soul? What is it YOU might want to be remembered for? “Whenever you do this…remember me”
Albert J Ogle