I feel I must not let July 2014 slip away without mentioning that it has a very special significance for me. You see, it was 50 years ago this month – in July 1964 – that my family – my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, my mum, Lorna, and my younger siblings Melanie and John (Ken, the youngest in our family, wasn’t yet born) – came to live at the Manse in beautiful little Queensborough, Ont.
We came here because Dad, newly ordained as a minister of the United Church of Canada, was taking up duties at his first pastoral charge, which included the churches in Queensborough, Hazzard’s Corners and Cooper. (You can take a little tour of that pastoral charge with me here.)
I don’t think I remember the day we first pulled up in the driveway in Dad’s 1956 Chev. (I was, after all, only four years old.) My mum remembers it vividly because pretty much the first thing that happened when we got out of the car was Will Holmes, who lived across the street, calling out to us with a warning: “Don’t drink the water!” (The water in the well at the Manse at that time was not potable, which meant we had to carry our drinking water in buckets from a community pump up at the schoolhouse. You can imagine what happy news this was to a mother of three children aged 4, 2 and 4 months.)
I don’t know what was the exact date of our arrival in July 1964. However, I assume it must have been around the middle of the month, because I have Dad’s sermons from 1964 and the very first one is dated July 19.
I read through that sermon the other day, sitting on the front porch of the same Manse that my family arrived at all those years ago. It is a good sermon; Dad’s sermons were always good. His text was from Mark 6:34, which is in the story of the feeding of the 5,000: “(Jesus) had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he had much to teach them.”
Dad did a good job in the sermon of explaining how lost, confused and helpless a flock of sheep is when their shepherd – the person who lives with them and whose call they know, the one person whom they will trust and follow – is suddenly not there. I confess I’d never really thought about that before. Obviously that was only a small part of his overall sermon, but it stuck with me.
As did one other thing, a phrase that I found really striking. Dad was talking about “the instinctive reaching out of the human soul to God,” and saying how we, like the crowds who flocked to Jesus in the story from Mark’s gospel, often can’t say exactly what it is we are looking for: “There is some help, some guidance, some teaching we all lack even if we cannot put our finger on our particular need.” He goes on: “Underneath all our surface needs is the instinctive reaching out of the human soul to God. Jesus understood that need of man to reach out to God, the need of the finite to touch the infinite.” (Italics mine)
“The need of the finite to touch the infinite” – it’s a beautiful and profound turn of phrase, isn’t it?
Anyway, aside from the thought-provoking content of my father’s first sermon as a young minister: isn’t it something that exactly 50 years later I am able to read and reflect on that sermon in the very same house in which he wrote it? I feel very fortunate – perhaps blessed is a better word – to be living in the handsome old Manse once again. And to be here with Raymond, who is the best (and most patient) husband ever.
In fact, I am going to show you a photo of Raymond and me that pays tribute to that full-circle thing. Remember Melanie and me at the front gate? Well, here are the current occupants. Same place – and a half-century later on.