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Another Perspective

In Honor of All Saints' Day

Growing up in the Episcopal Church I’d participated in more than a dozen All Saints’ Day activities by the time I was a teenager. It never meant much to me but I loved the music, especially “For all the saints who from their labors rest.” Not only did I participate in All Saints’ Day celebrations in my home parish (All Saints) but also at the Episcopal high school I attended. What fun it was to belt out that hymn as the organ volume ascended. It was truly thrilling. Good memories.

My high school was also a military school (uniforms, inspections, parades in 100 degree heat, white gloves, etc.). My junior year I was selected to carry the school flag as a member of the Color Guard. Arne Folkedal carried the American flag. On All Saints’ Day that year, Bishop Bloy held some sort of a diocesan event at the Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. The Color Guard was invited to participate. Getting out of classes to go to this event in our dress uniforms was memorable.

The All Saints’ Day celebration that changed my opinion of the holiday was in 1977. I was rector of St. Luke’s, Monrovia. This was a proud congregation that during the 1950s and 1960s had prospered. Attendance was large. The rector then was Morton Kelsey and people from all over Los Angeles came to listen to his inspiring sermons. When Morton left to teach at Notre Dame University, so did most of St. Luke’s members. As I climbed into the pulpit in 1977 attendance in the pews was modest, a few hundred people. When I reached the climax of my sermon, I was overwhelmed by a sense of all the deceased spirits that on that occasion had returned to worship with us. There was a palpable presence that hovered right above the stained glass windows. Their energy was so strong and intense I wanted to stop and ask the members of the congregation if they felt it also. The white owls that lived in the bell tower of the church started flying about screeching. It was just 10:45 a.m. just they had been awakened too. I also couldn’t finish my sermon. I felt their warmth, support and appreciation for being recalled and celebrated this day.

Ever since this experience, All Saints’ Day has been one of my favorite and important church celebrations.
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