We remembered Alfred Howes this past Sunday when some 75 people turned out for a beautiful and moving Evensong. Al, who died very suddenly from a fall in the summer, was a stalwart member of St Martin’s. He had left instructions that he wanted no funeral, but we had a need to honor him.
As sacristan, he ran the behind the scenes organization that enables our rich and complex liturgical life to run without a hitch. As an example, I was sitting waiting to begin a blessing of a marriage on one Saturday morning recently, when I noticed the left-hand candle on the High Altar flickering. I watched it wondering why it was behaving like this when it suddenly went out. It then dawned on me it went out because Al was not here to make sure the oil reservoirs in our candles were filled. This is but one small example of the many ways we are discovering what life now means without Al.
How is it we only ever know a small part of someone until a fuller picture of them emerges after their death? In the Eulogies we heard of the depth of Al’s literary sensitivity. A life-long friend read from the poignantly moving extracts of letters Al had written home during his time in the Merchant Marine - describing with exquisite eloquence his observation of the constellations at night, or of the black night-time ocean- seeming empty and yet pulsating with the divine presence mysteriously manifested in the vast emptiness. David Ely spoke of Al’s love of the Bard, as together they often rehearsed lines of greeting and departure taken from one or other of Shakespeare’s plays. To Al’s role as sacristan, David added that of under-sexton 2
nd grade – climbing to 1
st grade – a reference to the way Al always mucked in to help in the kitchen whenever needed.
Many remarked on the beauty of the sung Evensong led by our wonderful quartet of singers. Can I remind everyone that sung Evensong is a regular feature of our liturgical calendar on the 2
nd Sunday of each month at 4:30 pm? Only Grace Church and St Martin’s offer this on a monthly basis. Remember, Evensong at 4:30 offers the possibility of a Sunday morning lie-in. So, give this some thought. If we can raise Evensong attendance, we can also increase frequency.
Sunday was a day of remembrances. Following the 9:30 Eucharist we interred Sharon Burnett’s ashes in the scatter garden. Almost all the congregation filled the scatter garden for the short committal service. I spoke about my sense of Sharon’s presence among us as an experience of being visited unawares, by an angel. I don’t mean that she was in any sense like the popular stereotype of an angel. There was nothing sweet and fluffy about her. A fiercely independent woman who guarded her privacy to the extent that none of us ever really knew if she was, as she often appeared to be without a permanent home. But she came Sunday by Sunday, sat at the back, and sang with such gusto, and then took part in our community life while at the same time keeping herself to herself. She died suddenly this past winter in a nursing facility in East Providence. Among her meager effects, the staff came across my business card and a short instruction. Like Al Howes, she did not want a funeral but only to have her ashes interred in our scatter garden; a place where in life, Sharon had often found tranquility and refuge.
We are now holding a series of cottage gatherings inviting your ideas and hopes for our parish’s future direction. If you have not signed up, there is still time. For more information on the purpose of the cottage gatherings and the discernment phase, revisit last week’s
. In this E-news you will also find a list of gatherings. If you have not signed up, please do so at church, call 751-2141, or
Don’t forget to look out for each other in church, this Sunday.