One hundred and thirty years ago, our forebears erected and installed in the sanctuary four memorial tablets. Tablets inscribed with some of those names most conspicuous in our annals.
Two of these tablets are affixed on the south wall. These are of red marble, polished, enclosed by molded arches of Caen stone, carried on columns of Mexican onyx, and surmounted by gables with pinnacles. These tablets bear the names of the ministers, who, in long succession, filled the pastorate from 1670 to 2002, with the dates of installation, resignation, and death.
The other two tablets are placed on the rear wall on either side of the stone screen. They are of red slate, of triangular form, and with decorative frames of cast brass. These commemorate two distinguished laymen, Samuel Sewall and Samuel Adams, with the following inscriptions:
COUNCILLOR / JUDGE / CHIEF JUSTICE
FOR FIFTY THREE YEARS A MEMBER OF THIS CHURCH
BORN MARCH 28, 1652 / DIED JANUARY I , I 730
A MEMBER OF THIS CHURCH
BORN SEPTEMBER l6, 1722 / DIED OCTOBER 2, 1803
"TO GIVE HIS HISTORY AT FULL LENGTH
WOULD BE TO GIVE A HISTORY
OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
One hundred and thirty years ago these tablets were installed amid some ceremony: a service of worship, the reading of scripture, singing hymns (the two we have just sung), a sermon and remarks by various church leaders.
Today the names and legacies of these leaders are etched in stone, and that is as it should be. For we owe them much.
On this week of Old South Church in Boston’s 344th Annual Meeting, I want to mention persons, whose names, if not etched in stone, are etched in my heart today … for the labors they have undertaken to embody or facilitate the kindness of Jesus.
Etched on my heart are the past three Senior Deacons: Betty Smith, Diane Gaucher and Candace Kosturko and all of the Deacons. For it was under the leadership of the Deacons that we grew from one worship service once a week to four … that the Deacons and the Ushers came to practice a hospitality Candace Kosturko calls Welcoming and Watchful
Charged with responsibility for the spiritual life of this church, it is our board of Deacons who feed the spiritually malnourished with the bread of heaven, who slake parched throats with the cup of salvation; who preside at a table that is radically welcoming.
If you don’t know what that is like … Imagine hosting dinner parties four times a week … only you never know whose coming or how many to plan for or their allergies …and the place has to be clean and the candles trimmed
Etched on my heart: Old South Church caregivers: Ruth Ricker, Anna Yoder, Kay Davis, John Stainton, Mike Hand, Vicki Newman, Ginny Crane, Bill & Marilyn Adams, Miz Grant, Ralph Watson, Alice Verhoeven, Dick and Elinor Yeo. And those who have chaired our Congregational Care and Support Ministry: Jan Monsma, Carolyn Arrington, Caroline Murray … who have taken under their wings the frail among us, befriended, sheltered and accompanied them. You are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart: the Old south knitters: (Bethany, Diane, Marilyn, Pam, Betty and Elizabeth, Ellie, Cynthia) Whose fingers weave warmth and love, compassion and sympathy, courage and company. You are etched on my heart today.
Etched in my heart: those among you who have adopted children … taken in the most vulnerable and loved them into life … Tracy and Tim, Pam and Scott, Robert, Scott and Wendell, Saideh, Jer and Rick, Maggie and Darrell, David and Rock, Ruth, Annmarie, Bob and Christine. You are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart are the members of our Mission Teams who built a house in New Orleans and returned a mother to a place of shelter and a life of dignity. Old South Mission Teams: you are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart today are Erik Gustafson and Bettina Blake … who have collaborated on hymnody and poetry and music … and sent these out to comfort the grieving. You are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart are the gay men of this church… men who cook, and sew and collate and serve and decorate and garden and arrange flowers and wait tables and walk against AIDS … and I am saddened by the churches who do not know what they are missing. You are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart are Jan Monsma and Vard Johnson who taught us to pray… who bathed in prayer our discernment before voting on the Vision for the 21st Century … and again our discernment before voting to transform a precious and rare book in to 21st century ministries. You are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart this day is Lucy Costa, who managed the hosting of the Women’s Lunch Place two summers ago … enabling this church to host the most vulnerable women in Boston.
Etched on my heart today: Karen Hand who chaired the Two Ministers Search Committee. Now, I remember years ago when my father, David of blessed memory, chose to have both of his hips replaced at once. That was a big deal. It was the right decision, but it was a really big deal.
The Two Ministers Search Committee undertook the operation of seeking and installing two new ministers simultaneously. It was the right decision, but it was a really big deal. You are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart today are Rory Razon and his Disciples Bible Study who tenderly pray the prayers left in our Prayer Box … who lift heavenward the needs, the fears, the cares and thanksgivings of those who visit this sanctuary and who leave their prayers in our keeping. Rory, you are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart today are Jim Hood and our gardeners whose gardens make us beautiful, make us famous, win us awards …. And this: whose gardens in full bloom after the Marathon bombings, literally ministered to the world. Gardeners: You are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart today are Erin Hull and Donna Evans, who devised the De-Greet Table, Wednesday Prayers and Bagels and the Bible. You are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart today is Allison Cooley—when we were exiled from our church home … out in the cold during the FBI investigation that followed the Marathon bombings … Allison arranged an office for the Old South Staff at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She kitted us out with desks, computers, bottles of water and, not least, a box of tissues on each of our desks. Allison, you are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart today is Bob Elder, of blessed memory. Not only did he bequeath us one million dollars … that check came with a letter from Bob’s son: “This gift of 1 million dollars is the only unrestricted gift in my father’s will. If you knew my father, you would know that he would only make such a gift to a donee whose decisions and leadership he trusted.” Bob and Coley Elder are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart today is Alliea Groupp who, as a member of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization Health Care Strategy Team, helped to bring healthcare to all in Massachusetts. Talk about ministering in the name of Jesus. Alliea, you are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart today: Dick Yeo and his band of merry docents …Who welcome all comers to this sacred space. You are etched on my heart today.
Liz Rice Smith, Betty Smith, Bill Adams & Kay Davis (free hugs) and Ron Smith and Peter Southwell-Sander (both of blessed memory)… for flinging wide the doors of our church and the doors of our hearts and proclaiming as loudly as we can: Welcome!
Chris Been and Jackie Geilfuss who through social media … are introducing the world to a church engaged in Christian ministries of mercy, justice, beauty and radical hospitality.
Etched on my heart today are our church photographers who capture faith in action: George, Brian, Nancy, Sonya, Dominick, Jackie, Cathryn, Evan. You are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart today is Ralph Watson’s live Christmas tree. When one among us took ill over the holidays and was hospitalized for an extended period, and in a separate container, the ornaments with which to trim the tree. Ralph, you are etched on my heart today.
Visiting the prisoner: Vard Johnson and Matt Underwood and Ruth Purtilo and Deb Washington and the Restored Vision Project for refusing to forget those who are locked away. You are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart this day, the day of our 344th Annual Meeting are our Moderator, Mark Schueppert, and our Chair of the Board of Trustees, Phil Stern and our chair of the Operations Committee, Paul Kuenstner, and Longtime member Roger Burke, whose concern for the future of this church and its tender ministries, emboldened them to turn the other cheek and carry on despite being mistreated and maligned as we discussed whether or not to transform heritage assets into ministry. They took it on the chin, but only returned meanness with kindness. Gentlemen, you are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart today are those who spend hours bent over calculators and spread sheets, making certain our finances are well stewarded and transparent, our books squeaky clean, our ministries funded, our heritage assets well cared for: Joanne Hermon, David Vogan, Debby Kuenstner, Dan Bergstresser, Tom Grant, Jennifer Craig, Kurt Gartner, Vicki Newman, Jim Monsma, Brigitte Fletcher. You are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart today are the residents—the citizens of Pew 99. Pew 99 would you please stand? These residents of Pew 99 are etched in my heart today because of the notes they write to us on the Friendship Pad. Because, if an unsuspecting stranger trespasses into their pew, that stranger would never know it … would be welcomed with earnest affection. You are etched on my heart today.
Etched on my heart today is Tim Harbold and the new Old South Gospel Choir.
Etched on my heart this day is the church of Samuels Adams and Sewell … and today’s Samuels: Wetherald, Brenner, Ou and Byers.
Etched on my heart today is the church of Benjamin Franklin and today’s Benjamins: Stern, Layton, Bayliss and Crawford.
Etched on my heart today is the church of Mary Norton and todays Marys: Hunter, Kohak and Kendrick.
Etched on my heart today is the Church of Ann Bradstreet (first women published on this soil) and of today’s Anns: Merrifield, Rogers, Brown, Ghormley, Pritchard, Bourque and Stoddard.
Your names may not be etched in stone and framed in brass – not yet – but after today they will be digitally archived and pod cast and forever held in our records.
Old South Church in Boston: for how you comport yourselves, for your love for the outcast and your tenderness toward the prisoner and your welcome of the sinner and your clothing of the naked and your sheltering of the unwashed and unhoused and your feeding of the hungry … and your comforting those who grieve and your loving of the unlovely and your prodigious generosity (of time, talent and treasure) and for the keen attention you pay to the sacred stories of our faith … For all these and more … you are etched on my heart today.
Such is my report on the State of the Church.