Thank you, Lord, for the saints who have gone before and those who journey with us now. Help us to never forget and to persevere in faith no matter what. Amen.

Today, I visited the church of my childhood. It was beautiful, even more beautiful than I remembered. I noticed things I had long forgotten, like the bricked-in bell from a former structure and a placard that read: “First Baptist Church Colored; Built: 1860 – Rebuilt: 1938“. Brick and mortar, pews, a gathering place. Community, belonging, identity, and a sense of pride. Grandma, cousins, aunts and uncles, neighbors, and friends. Traditions and rituals.

People sharing common stories. Gossip, this and that, who is coming and going, getting married or divorced, sick and in the hospital, all the latest news—some things never seem to change. The faithful persevering against all odds; robbed of dignity in the day to day, perhaps, but on Sunday mornings, they were some kind of special, at least for a little while.

Collard greens, mac n’cheese, potato salad, fried chicken, and cakes and pies for special occasions and anniversaries. Laughs and smiles, hugs and kisses, and handshakes for the menfolk. Singing and clapping, sermons spirited, and sweat and tears. And those clothes—oh my! Ladies all decked out in two-piece suits, dresses, hats, and gloves, and the men as dapper as can be—always the very finest that one owned, cleaned and pressed, with shoes spit-shined.

Here in this church, faith was nurtured and shared with testimonies:

“The Lord woke me up this morning and started me on my way.”
“I thank God the blood still runs warm in my veins.”
“I am clothed in my right mind with activity of my limbs.”
“Last night’s bed was not my cooling board and the covers not my winding sheets.”
“The Lord made a way out of no way, opened doors that no man could close and closed doors that no man could open.”
“Hallelujah. Thank you, Jesus. Amen. Amen. Amen.”

Simple things, but never to be taken for granted. The church was alive, and hope was alive. I am grateful for these memories—the power, mystery, and wonder of it all; faith undeterred and faith that holds me still.

“For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia, Alleluia!” [1]

Grace and peace,
Pastor Cathy

[1] “For All the Saints” by William W. How, 1864. Hymn #711 in The United Methodist Hymnal: Book of United Methodist Worship. Nashville, Tennessee: United Methodist Publishing House, 1989.