A FEW WEEKS AGO I was sitting in the church office putting together a wedding bulletin for Barbara Hurley and Denis Childs. And a song came on the radio. It was from the musical “Try to remember” from “The Fantasticks.” Actually I never saw the musical, but I loved the Diana Ross version, where she sings that song and merges it with “The way we were.”

There was a line at the end that went something like,

“Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,

The fire of September that made us mellow.

Deep in December, our hearts should remember

And follow.”

Do you remember that? I couldn’t help but think, after hearing it, of all of the wonderful memories this aging old building brings to mind. If you added up all of the weddings I’ve done here, it’s got to be well over a hundred. Perhaps two hundred. And what of the ministers before me. It must be thousands.

I remember every one. Some were brief, some beautiful, some were long, some were short. But all were glorious and in the end the groom was handsome and the bride was beautiful

And what about baptisms? Again hundreds. All sweet and dear. Occasionally a baby would cry or throw up on my robe (sometimes worse), but we always got through them. We always felt better after having done them. And the parents always felt a little closer to me, to God, and this church because of them. Remember?

This church has ministered and had ministry done in it for almost three hundred years. The sanctuary has been filled and refilled thousands of times. The choir has soared in song and renewed us and redeemed us with music. How many choir directors have we had? How many different choirs? Include children’s choirs, bell choirs. Count choirs from the other two churches that came together to make this church and you have hundreds of choirs and thousands of people who made music and lifted spirits. Do you remember that?

Here’s a tough one. I wonder how many children and adults have been through our education program. I personally know of hundreds of people who have sat in my Bible Studies and movie, literature, prayer classes. What about the children’s classes? This church was one of the very first in the entire country to initiate a Christian education program. Did you know that? It was invented in Great Britain in the 1830s and in this church in the 1940s. In the hundreds of thousands of churches nation-wide, there are only three or four who have been educating people in the name of Jesus Christ longer than we.

Now try to remember some of the people who folded newsletters, or greeted you at the door on a Sunday morning, or painted rooms in the CE building, or cooked, served, set up, took down, for a chowder supper or Thanksgiving supper, or worked in a rummage sale or Fall Fiesta, or served on a Board or committee, or chaired a meeting, or took notes at a meeting, or took clothes over to Main Spring house, or collected foods for the Interfaith AIDS ministry, or preached in this church, or washed out the communion cups, or took kids on a field trip, gave a program at the Women’s Fellowship, or…on and on.

“Deep in December (or January) our hearts should remember, and Follow.”

Our beloved old church is going through some pretty hard times right now. Our membership is growing, but not as fast as our expenses and it is taking a toll on us by forcing us to spend down our endowment to make ends meet. In the next few weeks we will be hearing of plans to try to stabilize the finances and, yes, it will mean that you and I and all the rest will have to give more money. We have to grow more and we have to give more. There aren’t many more ways upward than those.

But when I think of all of the deep sacrifices that so many have made here for generations and generations, it doesn’t feel like something that I “have” to do. It feels like something that I want to do with joy. God’s word has come out of this beautiful congregation in many forms and in many ways, and will continue to do so. With your help, and God’s help, we will stand at the threshold of a new era and a new generation and go forward. We will stand there and look back at the lovely, glorious, times and ministries we’ve had and we will remember, and then we will look forward to Jesus and we will follow.

Rev. Stan