“The marks of the new age are present hidden in the old age. At the juncture of the ages the marks of the resurrection are hidden and revealed in the cross of the disciple’s daily death, and only there … this is what the turn of the ages means, that life is manifested in death.” J.L. Martyn, “Epistemology at the Turn of the Ages.”
The opening worship service at the 2018 Annual Conference session was the annual Memorial Service, honoring the clergy and spouses who have passed since the last gathering.
The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill, this year’s guest preacher, delivered the sermon on Thursday afternoon, June 14, 2018.
“Death makes us mortal,” Dr. Hill said, “Facing death makes us human.”
Speaking, in particular, to “those who are grieving, those for whom this memorial hour is utterly personal, lastingly real, eternally meaningful, deeply spirited,” Dr. Hill recalled April 15, 2013 – the day of the Boston Marathon bombing.
“We do not know what a day will bring,” he said.
Dr. Hill spoke of many of the events of that day and the following week. He told the story of meeting an old high school friend, then a news photographer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who recognized Dr. Hill during an interview.
“[Clem Murray] and his girlfriend [later wife] Mimi were the ‘class couple’ because they were the most beautiful couple, a truly stunning twosome. I had seen neither for 40 years,” Dr. Hill said.
When Dr. Hill asked about Mimi he learned that she had died of cancer two years before.
“In the midst of life we are in death, every moment,” he said. “Three decades of marriage, three children, all things bright and beautiful, and then a malignancy unto death.”
Sharing their memories of high school “made us young again,” Dr. Hill said, and brought them back to that moment.
He went on to recall a memorial service held for Lu Lingzi, a BU graduate student killed in the bombing.
“As the service ended, from the next row, I could see and hear a susurration along the family pew. They then were meant to move to the gathering and greeting room, but no one stood,” he said. “After a moment, the family, dressed in black stood as one, moved as one, turned as one, and faced the congregation and the world. A long quiet ensued.
“Then, as one, they bowed at the waist, and held the bow: To honor the gathering, to honor the moment, to honor the life, to honor Life, …”
“Prayer gives us life,” he said. “Prayer gives life to us as we memorialize honored and beloved saints.”
Dr. Hill also spoke of personal loss: the death of his father in 2010, and recalled that Bishop Devadhar had been one of the first to call.
“Hear the Gospel: memory, prayer and love, creation, redemption, sanctification, Father, Son, Spirit, life in death. And life in death holds out a promise of something grander still, life after death.”
The bell was rung for each of the clergy and spouses being remembered, and family members who were present received pieces of cloth that were placed on the altar.
In his benediction, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar said, “We need to remember the lessons of the saints that have gone before us, “so when we see them again, we can say ‘thank you for being our leaders.’”