Yesterday my post was more or less about the history (well, the history over the past 50 years or so) of the Queensborough (later Queensborough-Eldorado) Pastoral Charge of the United Church of Canada, which my father, Wendell Sedgwick, served as minister for 11 years when I was growing up. (Which is why I grew up in the United Church Manse in Queensborough.)
I mentioned too that St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough recently celebrated its 140th anniversary, a service that Raymond and I were very happy to be able to attend.
The sermon that The Rev. Caroline Giesbrecht gave that morning was entitled “Facing Our Fears,” and it was essentially about what the unknown future might hold for the small but still-there St. Andrew’s congregation and church. It was based on Mark 4: 35-41, the story of Jesus (asleep in the stern) and the apostles in a boat tossed by a storm. Rev. Giesbrecht talked about the fear and uncertainty that the apostles felt, not knowing what the future held: life, or death? That same uncertainty – life, or death? – faces the congregation of St. Andrew’s (and the congregations of so many small rural churches these days). The strong and comforting message that she brought was the same that Jesus had when the terrified apostles woke him during the storm (and as he calmed the winds and the waves): “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” The message: the future will bring what it will; have faith, and all will be well.
To conclude her sermon, Rev. Giesbrecht read some verses from an old (and not-much-sung-anymore) hymn, “Will Your Anchor Hold.” (You can listen to a good rendition of it here.) An excerpt:
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?
Chorus: We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll
Fastened to the rock which cannot move
Grounded firm and deep in the saviour’s love.
Etc. As she read the words, I was thinking of Evelyn Lynn. And I will confess there were tears in my eyes.
Mrs. Lynn was a gentle soul who lived in the house on the property immediately behind the Manse. When we first moved there her husband – I think his name was Walt – was still alive, but he died not too many years later. Mrs. Lynn was the first piano teacher that my sister, Melanie, and I had. She was unbelievably kind and patient in the face of (and I speak strictly for myself here) a complete lack of talent and interest and willingness to practice.
Mrs. Lynn was also the pianist for Sunday School at St. Andrew’s United Church. Sunday School then was rather more like a church service than Sunday School tends to be now; all the kids would gather in the sanctuary for some hymns and bible readings before we headed off to our separate (age-based) classes. Mrs. Lynn was a real trouper, but (as I expect she would have been the first to admit) was not the world’s greatest pianist and did not have the world’s greatest repertoire. She knew a couple of dozen hymns really, really well, though – and so we sang those ones a lot.
Will Your Anchor Hold was top of the list. We sang that one over and over and over and over. I am certain that I had all the words memorized by the time I was six years old, and I still know them readily by heart. (“When our eyes behold through the gathering night / The city of gold, our harbour bright … “)
Here’s the thing: because a guest musical group had been brought in for the 140th anniversary service at St. Andrew’s on Sunday, June 24, the pulpit had been moved off to the side of the front of the sanctuary. Exactly the spot, in fact, where the piano that Mrs. Lynn so faithfully played had stood for so many years. (Now the church’s piano, a bigger one that is not much played because there is no one to play it, is on the other side of the sanctuary.) So as The Rev. Giesbrecht was reading those words so familiar to me, and certainly to many others in the congregation, she was standing in exactly the place where Evelyn Lynn had pounded out the tune for us on so many Sunday mornings, so long ago.
It made me think about the past, rather than the future that the minister was focusing on. But perhaps there is something to be said for moments that link the past and the present – because they make us realize that our present, too, shall pass. We must face what is to come.
Best if we leave our fears behind.