Charleston: All Faithful Departed
“You have heard the whispers on quiet summer evenings when you have been walking alone. They are the sound of the ancestors, speaking softly just on the other side of what we call real. You have seen the strange lights at twilight, like candles lit in evening rooms, beckoning people home to houses you cannot see. You have felt the touch on your shoulder, when you were deep in prayer or bent with worry, and known the energy that hums along the wires of faith, the presence of a power that knows how to heal. You have experienced the physical mystery that surrounds us, the mystery of the Spirit, the thousand tiny proofs that we live next door to heaven, waking up in a wonder we are only beginning to discover.” Bishop Steven Charleston, Facebook, October 31,2018.
Yesterday was All Saints, and today is The Celebration of All Faithful Departed. These two liturgical celebrations are our church’s family reunion day. It is the time for us to pull out our family photograph album and remember where we came from and all the faithful who influenced our lives.
Where were you the night of April 4, 1968? My husband and I were seniors in medical school in Memphis. That night Martin Luther King was assassinated outside of the Loraine Motel. Memphis became a police state. Clergy in Memphis decided to respond by marching to the office of the mayor, Henry Loeb and ask for relief for the sanitation workers on strike who had brought King to Memphis.. The ministers gathered at St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral. At the last moment, the Dean, William Dimmick, who later became the bishop of Northern Michigan, (also baptized our two sons) went into the Cathedral and took the processional cross from the high altar. Holding it high above him (he was a very short man), he led the march down Poplar Avenue to City Hall.
The air was electric. Down the streets they marched. One Methodist minister writes about one moment he will never forget. As the clergy are marching down Poplar Avenue, up ahead, he sees an elderly woman sitting on her front porch. As the procession approaches her, she stands up and screams, "GET THAT CROSS BACK IN THE CHURCH WHERE IT BELONGS!"1
Dean Dimmick took the cross out of the cathedral into the streets of a city on the verge of riot. He taught us where Christ lives especially in times of grief and oppression. Christ is out in the midst of the mess. Christ was out walking the streets of Memphis in 1968.
Today my prayer is that we will be able to emulate what we learned from Dean Dimmick and take Christ out to those who are sick and suffering, to those who are hungry, to those living in poverty, to those who have been victims of the many episodes of recent violence in our country and their families, to immigrants in and outside of our country and all over the world, to those who are lonely and fearful, to those who are invisible to most of us much of the time.
It always helps to remember especially on this day that in some way we cannot explain, that Dean Dimmick will always be there beside us, praying and cheering us on.
1. Preaching through the year of Mark, "Stepping out of the Tent," Katherine Moorehead. p. 75.