~ Dorothy Caine, my paternal grandmother;
~ Ruth Alsbury, my 3rd grade teacher;
~ David Dillard, my best friend in Junior High School;
~ Donald Suggs, my best friend in High School;
~ the Rev. Don Berry, my professor of religion; the first to speak with me about attending seminary;
~ Professor Beverly Harrison, who showed me how being a pastor could be important;
~ the Rev. Fred Hill, my first supervisor in ministry;
~ Merdedes and Quintina Ortiz, who helped me learn to pastor;
~ Luis Rodriguez, who showed me I could be more than I expected.
In the wedding service, towards the end of the greeting that begins the ceremony, right after the minister has asked the couple getting married to take a deep breath, then look at one another, then turn around and look at the friends and family gathered as witnesses, there is a passage that reads:
“…And there are even more who are than here. In church, we call it the cloud of witnesses. Those who are unable to be here today, but who are keeping you in their thoughts and prayers. And also all those who have gone before you, but without whom you could not be here today.”
It’s an important passage, because I haven’t encountered a couple yet that’s made it to the altar without being able to count someone who has already passed, but without whom they wouldn’t be standing where they are that day.
All Saints Day is a time to remember and to give thanks. Most years, it’s more or less the same list of people who touched you deeply. But on sad occasion, there’s also a new name on the list.
The list I shared above has been the same for the last few years. I could explain more about each person. And there are others too who I should probably list. But they are mine, and more important for my journey. You have your own list, I’m sure, don’t you?
But even when our lists haven’t changed — which is probably what we want when we’re talking about beloved people we’ve lost to death! — it’s important to stop sometimes and remember and give thanks. At least once a year.
We will remember one by one those who have passed away this last year, with a chime sounding after each name.
Once we’ve finished that list, I will ask us “all at once” to raise the names of those who died earlier but who we still need to count as the saints with whose help we’ve gotten where we are. And there will be a crowd of names said over one another in a jumble — our cloud of witnesses.
Join us. And if you know anyone else who is grieving the loss of a loved one, maybe this is the service to invite them to?
See you in church,