For well over a decade now, St. Matthew’s has celebrated the lives of our deceased family members and friends by holding an Evening Of Remembrance (EOR). This event was founded by Judy Leavell and Ted Sokal. As Judy recently recalled, “Ted and I had returned from Poland, having experienced the All Saint’s evening there, and were so moved by what we saw, and the love expressed. That same year, several dear friends at St. Matt’s had died, and we thought it might be a way to honor them, and for all of us to celebrate the lives of those we’d lost. We approached Sally to see if the youth would come, and were overwhelmed at their reaction and acceptance. There was a huge turnout that year, and we all knew we had struck a chord.”
This year’s Evening Of Remembrance will be on November 3rd, with quiet meditation in various areas available from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm, followed with a brief Reading Of The Names liturgy in the Sanctuary, ending at around 8pm. All cultures mourn their deceased loved ones, while at the same time celebrating these beautiful lives. Our EOR is an homage to this basic human need, and we participate in this ongoing part of life by recognizing different ways to mourn and celebrate. Perhaps most ancient of all is our human connection to fire, with its light and warmth. These qualities comfort us and uplift us, so there are many, many candles surrounding us at the EOR.
Music is truly an elemental part of being human, as it touches us emotionally in places where words cannot reach. The EOR has meditative, acoustic music in many areas – delicate guitar, mandolin, violin and bagpipe sounds softly fill the air throughout the evening. The acts of placing a single stone on a larger formation of many stacked stones (a cairn), or of placing a flower on a cross – these have come down to us from ancient times, and from many cultures. The stones represent a collective remembrance made up of individual voices, while the flowers symbolize a renewal, or a blooming of sorts, and a move to another existence. For Christians, the flowering of the cross represents the transition from Good Friday to Easter, from meditation on Jesus’ death to the joyful celebration of His resurrection. There will be a cross with a vase of flowers, and a cairn with a basket of stones – both offer the opportunities to remember and consider and reflect.
Meditative walking rituals have long given us a chance to focus our minds. Walking the labyrinth is one such ritual, as we turn ourselves over to the repetitive steps of our physical body, while our thoughts are freed to contemplate the different states of the life cycle. A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The labyrinth represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools. In the Parish Hall, a large labyrinth will be set up for this kind of meditation.
Naming is an act of recognition. When we name, we are recognizing the importance of something in our lives. In the sanctuary, to conclude the EOR, one of the most powerful moments of the evening takes place at 7:30 when all the names of our loved ones are called out, and each receives an honorary tolling of the bell. In the Red Book on the table between the Narthex and the hallway which leads to the Parish Hall, please list any names that you would like to have remembered in this way, by October 20th. The names will also be printed in the November 3rd bulletin.
Please join us on the evening of November 3rd, as we continue, as a parish and beyond, to mourn and celebrate the lives of those that have gone on before us. Children are most welcome.