We’re in a remembering season in the church. Yesterday was All Saints Day, and today All Souls, when we remember those who have gone before us, that we belong to a community that is larger than just those who are now living. Tomorrow at church we will have an opportunity to say the names of those that we love and see no longer – to remember and give thanks for them.
Sometimes this remembering is confined to those who have died in the past year. In our congregation we invite people to remember anyone who they wish to hold close at this time. This year I’m particularly thinking of some of the women in my life who helped me grow into faith.
Mrs Brown, as I respectfully called her, was my next door neighbour. When I turned five she asked my mother if she could take me to Sunday School. This seemed very exciting to me, it involved dressing in my “good clothes” and going off to a place with red carpet and beautiful stained glass. I got to hold a hymnal of my own, and then go over to the church hall for Sunday School classes. While at first I’m pretty sure it was the aesthetically appealing environment that drew me in, it was the beginning of a faith that has shaped my life. Thank you Mrs Brown (Gladys). Your hospitality and care set the course of my life in ways you couldn’t have imagined.
Mrs Flyger. Ev, as I came to call her, was someone else that Mrs Brown drove to church. She had a dog called Minka, loved to knit and crochet, and lived just around the corner from our house. Once I was old enough I would go to visit on a Saturday afternoon. Ev taught me to cook, to craft, and she had absolute faith in my ability to do anything I set my mind to. Staying overnight at her house was always a treat – there was always pudding and late-night television and all the love and care a surrogate grandmother could offer. Ev gave me the celtic cross she had worn on her wedding day for my 21st birthday. I wear it still for special occasions and when I’m doing things that I’m not sure I’m really capable of! Thank you Ev. Your love sustained me through adolescent angst, my cooking and crafting is the better for having known you and I have no idea what you’d make of my living in China but it sure would be fun to tell you the stories!
Grandmother. She was Andrew’s grandmother actually, but invited me after we were married to no longer call her Mrs Caswell but to refer to her as grandmother too. It wasn’t ever shortened – that wasn’t the kind of woman she was. If you gave her a gift she really liked, it was pronounced “most acceptable”. She didn’t really support the ordination of women, but, ever-gracious, she was at my ordination both as a deacon and a priest. She apologised in advance that she wouldn’t be able to receive Communion from me but at my ordination it would be alright to bring her Communion in her seat as the Bishop would have consecrated it and that was therefore acceptable. The following day I presided at Communion for the first time, and to my surprise, she came to the altar rail and received bread into her hands. It wasn’t proper to challenge the Bishop’s authority – he had ordained me so I was a priest! I keep a little wooden carved St Francis by my desk that had belonged to her. It reminds me to be gracious. It reminds me that it is possible to think about things in a different way, to come to a different conclusion. Thank you Grandmother. You were a faithful example of a woman who loved God and served others. Your strength and determination shone.
May they rest in peace and rise in glory
and may God give us the grace to follow the saints in faith and hope and love…