Dear People of St. Catherine’s,
Even for us who believe time moves forward and not in a circle, it must be reassuring to “come round right” and find ourselves at the beginning of all things. We have come to November, which the ancient Druids marked as the new year, a liminal time, thin, when the boundary between here and there was permeable and we could reach back and ahead.
Early in this month, we will turn our clocks back, the late day will grow darker, we will know that it is time to give thanks, “ere the winter storms begin.” But two moments set this month apart and allow us to wonder at the transcendent promise of life itself.
Not long ago I was in Barnes and Noble bookstore, perusing the stacks of books for something with which to satiate my relentless desire for reading. I noticed a thick book covered with a sticker saying, “Oprah’s Book Club 2021.” I’m not sure that is the gold standard for literary criticism, but her book club has included Anna Karenina, Middlemarch and other luminous works, so I looked further, opened the fly leaf. This book, entitled, The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois, by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, is a tale of the coming of age and growing up of a young black girl, with family connections in upper crust African American society in Washington, DC and down-home communities in Georgia, where Cherokee, Creek, African tribes and white slave owners collided.
Well, with my appreciation for W.E.B. DuBois ….and Oprah’s recommendation! … I bought the book and devoured it. It is a remarkable debut novel, laying before me the complexities of racial identity in America, the hidden stories of lineage and family, the sorrows of lives wasted, and the joys of promises fulfilled. But what captivated me in this liminal month of November is the conclusion of Ms. Jeffers acknowledgments at the end of the novel:
And, finally, I am here on this earth to tend Ancestral altars.
I am here to speak of many tribes: the Cherokee, the Creek, the
Wolof, the Akan, the Yoruba. And the many gatherings that I
I am here to give gratitude to those who came before. They live
within me: The people. The folks. Their songs.
We begin this month, on All Saints, by remembering the holy men and women, those ancestral altars that call us back, where we acknowledge their lives and give thanks for their journeys. We must be here on earth to give gratitude to those who came before us. They truly live within us. The people. The folks. Their songs.
As the Letter to the Hebrews says,
Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith,
did not receive what was promised, since God had provided
something better so that they would not, apart from us, be
But it is not sufficient to merely remember the ancestors of our faith. On November 14, we come to church and walk to the altar to lay our pledges upon the altar. We don’t make that journey to the altar alone. It is not just our pledge cards we lay down before God. It is all those others, who came before us. We carry them forward. They truly live within us. The people. The folks. Their songs.
We are beginning a new chapter in the story of St. Catherine’s Church. Someday others will remember us and know that they carry us within them. And we will be the people, the folks, and it is our songs they will treasure. What a glorious month. And what a glorious new chapter.
With gratitude for all of you people, you folks, and your songs,
Allen W. Farabee, Interim RectorPosted in Newsletter
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