My Electronic Congregation
My Electronic Congregation - July 17, 2010
This mortal life is a constant flux of goings and comings. I want to report to you one of each.
Beginning with a phone call one evening, out of the blue, when the display screen of our Panasonic phone said and read, "Eric Holland." I lifted the phone from its cradle and greeted once-junior-high-and-confirmand Eric, now living and working in Orlando FL. No not for Disney (as does Tracy Starr), for Oracle. Eric was the bearer of sad tidings. His Mom, Angela, had died days earlier, at age 80; and, I have assumed, Eric just wanted to touch base with his religious past and the pastor whose lessons and sermons were touchstones for his understanding of the Christian faith. Something like that, for it should be quickly added that Eric was far kinder and more gracious than the last sentence suggests. We chatted for a few minutes. I remembered Eric as a pal of Carl Zipperlen and Terry Brill. Eric added Bill Peterman to that list.
Eric reported being at his 20th Central High reunion with Carl and classmates who knew Carl as a slender teenager subject to their teasing. They joked with him and pleaded with Carl, whose physique now matches that of an NFL linebacker, please, please don't tear us apart. Many a joke in earnest.
Eric and his wife are parents of four year old Penelope.
Angela and Ray Holland moved from Valley Stream to Massachusetts, near Angela's hometown, Worcester, before I retired. Ray is one of the four or five people in Valley Stream who had a link to my previous parish in Brooklyn. His mother was a close friend of a congregant and neighbor. The others connecting Grace Church and Sunset Park Norwegian Church (which became Christ United Methodist Church in 1968) were Leslie Ash, Vera Totten's brother-in-law, who knew of me from his days in Brooklyn and contacts there; Bunny Black, Kris and Steve Mickiewicz's grandmother, whose mother was the daughter of the architect, named Hansen, of the Brooklyn church building; and Michael Graham, a Brooklyn Junior High become the security officer at Elmont High. Mostly I had the advantage of anonymity when starting out in Nassau County.
I've reported it before, but I never get tired (maybe you do!) of the wonderful backflow of affection from people served, who think you are a lot better than you know yourself to be, crediting you/me, as Eric has, with "making a difference" in their lives. That's the kind of satisfaction Alex Rodriguez and multi-millionaire others, for all their talent and achievement, are not likely to have bestowed on them. Ecclesiastes has it right: "cast your bread upon the waters, and you will find it after many days." Or as Jesus puts it, more or less, "you get what you give."
Last Saturday Bob the Baptizer returned, but not to baptize, to look on and bless Braedyn Quinn Leach at the Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River NJ. It was our third visit there. The first time I participated in the funeral service for Sonja (nee Petersen) Mahle, the MYFer who, during one of my early Sundays in Brooklyn, broke her toe when the church's ping pong table collapsed. I visited her at home a couple of days later and she forever after teased me that the reason I made that visit wasn't just pastoral compassion, but worry about a lawsuit. That thought surfaced again (with a big smile to tease me) during my last meeting with her at her home in Allendale NJ, when she was in the final stages of a terminal cancer.
The second time at the Church of the Presentation was to participate in the wedding ceremony for Sonja and husband Dave Mahle's daughter, Suzanne, Braedyn's mom. But I missed a subsequent opportunity for a double baptism (for Braedyn's sister Ashlan and a cousin, the daughter, Nina, of Suzanne's brother Michael and his wife, Danna) at the same church when a heavy snow storm in January 2009 made travel treacherous.
Father Bob Stagg presided over the four baptisms. I read the Gospel, an honor usually reserved for the priest in charge. I was duly impressed with the service. Father Bob, with reference to Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, emphasized the importance, the eternal importance to young souls, of the environment parents and family create. The water of baptism was applied, blessings given with hands on Moms and Dads, and all the children present invited to go to the massive baptistry up front and to the side of the Table and watch the waters move. Two hymns were sung; and if you listened knowingly you would have heard one loud Protestant baritone among the voices.
Grandpa Dave Mahle hosted a reception in Braedyn's honor, at the Club House at Tuxedo Park, just over the state line in New York, a site I once visited fifty years ago, for a retreat at Sterling Forest. Herewith are a few photos of Braedyn's family I thought would be of interest to those of you with Brooklyn roots.