2 Kings 5:1-15
2 Timothy 2: 8-15
Luke 17: 11-19
Praise the LORD !
I will give thanks to the LORD
with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright,
in the congregation.
Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them.
- Psalm 111: 1 – 2
On the last weekend in September, Nancy and I went to Maryland… again.
The previous weekend (9/17–18), we had made two separate trips to Maryland. The first of those was on Saturday, to Catonsville, on the south side of Baltimore, to take part in the Central Atlantic Conference’s memorial service for our long-time Conference Minister, Rev. Dr. John Deckenback. The second trip to Maryland that weekend was on Sunday afternoon, to visit with some of my family at a funeral home in Millersville, where my Cousin Mary Ross Myers’ body lay.
Our trip to Maryland over Sunday, September 25th was mainly so we could participate in the burial of my Aunt Sal’s ashes in Parklawn Memorial Park in Rockville. My earliest memories include visiting that cemetery: even though I had not set foot there since the early 1970s, I had a vivid picture of its landscape in my mind’s eye. I remembered that, in many ways, it’s similar to Eastlawn, the burial park along U.S. 33 near Harrisonburg.
But, because the grave-side service with Aunt Sal’s ashes was scheduled for 2 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, we decided to go to Takoma Park on Saturday, stay overnight with Selah and her mommy and daddy, and go to church with them on Sunday morning. And so we did.
Maybe you’ve noticed, down to this point in this article, everything has been about dealing with death. And that’s how it felt to me. Lots of death. But that was about to change.
Sunday morning dawned in beauty, and our gaggle of Bassetts drove down into Washington, D.C.. All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church is an urban church. One clue to that fact is that you might have to park several blocks away. Son Chris and I dropped the others off near the church door, then parked the cars and ran/ walked the blocks. We entered the large, bright sanctuary near the front, near the musicians, who were “jamming” very brightly and joyously following the first hymn and the official “welcome” to the service. The people in the pews appeared relaxed and comfortable, chatting with each other a bit and moving to the rhythm of the band. Almost everyone was wearing a name-tag.
We joined our family members in time to witness the All Souls Jubilee Singers perform “Ride the Chariot,” an old Negro Spiritual. The members of the Jubilee Singers came in all skin colors, and their music was served up with great, soulful spiritual intensity.
Then followed a time when the leadership of the Religious Education Department and the children honored the Teachers and Advisors, at the beginning of the new school year. This part of the service made me notice how very many young families were mixed in among the All Souls congregation- many more families similar to our own young family there.
Next, we sang (in Zulu and in English), “Siyahamb’ - We Are Marching in the Light of God.”
We also sang a song that All Souls includes in all of their worship services:
Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.
Soon, it was time for the sermon, and what a sermon !! Rev. Dr. Susan Newman Moore, All Souls’ Associate Minister of Congregational Life and Pastoral Care, was on the threshold of leaving for a sabbatical, after six years of service there. She gave us an extremely inspiring message, “In the Direction of your Dreams.” You can hear it here:
Sing a song
full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song
full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
In between times of recognizing the reality of death, we were blessed with inspiration and life.
“Was none of them found to return and give praise to God
except this alien ?”
- Luke 17:18